MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN **** USA 1992 Dir: John Carpenter. 99 mins
A financial flop at the time, this adaptation of H.F. Saint’s novel about the loneliness of invisibility was a pet project for Chevy Chase who, wanting more serious roles, agreed to do NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION for Warner Bros. if they financed it. Chase went through various directors (and scripting disputes) before it became Carpenter’s first major studio picture since BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA – unusually without his name above the title and with the score by another composer (the excellent Shirley Walker). It’s a San Francisco-set caper in which stock analyst Chase is rendered invisible in an industrial accident, is pursued by nefarious CIA agent Sam Neill, who yearns to harness the value of an invisible agent and has a budding romance with TV documentarian Daryl Hannah.
Sixty years after James Whale’s masterful use of 1930’s special effects for THE INVISIBLE MAN, this has fun using early 90’s CGI to convey an invisible man vomiting, brushing his teeth and eating. The hero doesn’t get up to as much mischief as his cinematic predecessors and he doesn’t go insane like Claude Rains, but the emphasis on Chase’s alienation captures the loneliness of being literally invisible in an already alienating modern city. His character is portrayed as a typical late 20th century workaholic with no ties or commitments other than his corporate existence: “He was invisible before he was invisible”. Playful incidental details include an amusing sexual nightmare and a visual nod to the Whale movie, though it was probably too sombre and genteel for 1992 audiences, despite the impressive imagery and a poignant romance that yields the most tender moment Carpenter directed outside of STARMAN. Neill, later outstanding in Carpenter’s IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, is a hoot as a nefarious villain routinely threatening to cut off someone’s testicles and lightly fry them for lunch.
Review by Steven West