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Memoirs of an Invisible Man

Memoirs of an Invisible Man on DVD

John Carpenter directed this Chevy Chase vehicle that disappeared from theaters quicker than Chase’s character disappears in the film.

It’s a shame, too. Not because Carpenter directed (we’re big John Carpenter fans), but that it bombed. It’s actually a nifty take on the invisible man theme that couples an interesting story with innovative (for the time) special effects.

And we’ll bet you can’t see through the plot!

Chase is Nick Holloway, a stock analyst whose life is turned inside out when, hung over and looking for a place to sneak away for a nap rather than attend a lecture, he unwittingly stays in a doomed building when all hell breaks loose.

When he awakes, the building is partially there and partially invisible - and he’s totally gone.

Which brings him to the attention of an evil government agent (as if there's any other kind to Hollywood?) deliciously played by Sam Neill. Neill sees the obvious potential of having an invisible agent working for Uncle Sam, and will stop at nothing to acquire same regardless of the consequences. If he can't convince him to serve his country, he'll snuff 'im.

Meanwhile, just before Nick disappeared, literally and figuratively, he met the lovely Alice Monroe (Daryl Hannah), a documentary filmmaker. They share an immediate attraction, but when Nick drops out of sight she figures it’s over.

Well, wrongo! As it turns out, she’s the only one who can help Nick and the latter part of the film sees them trying to escape Neill and his people of hench.

This is not a comedy and maybe that’s why it failed; most people associate Chase with comedies. There are light moments, for sure, but it’s more a light dramatic adventure than anything.

Chase is good as Nick. He brings just the right amount of cynicism balanced with vulnerability to the part and he keeps a stiff upper lip throughout all the unwanted adventures he finds himself in the midst of.

Darryl Hannah is, as always, decorative and her performance is fine. But it’s Neill who steals the show; the gentle scientist of Jurassic Park is a ruthless scheming nasty, and he pulls it off perfectly without ever resorting to scenery chewing.

The plot has some interesting takes on the invisibility theme and many of them give great excuses for some marvelous special effects. George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic was hired and as always they turn in a terrific effort. It’s interesting to see this film as a showcase of special effects, because it was made during the transition from optical to digital. There’s a short featurette on the effects accompanying the DVD and it’s quite interesting, though it left us wanting much more.

Some of the invisibility issues covered include “What happens when an invisible person eats?” and we are shown clearly see that, rather than being a real hoot, being invisible is a dangerous curse. It may not make you loony as it did in the classic “Invisible Man” with Claude Rains, but it certainly keeps you hopping and on your guard!

Carpenter uses some interesting techniques to portray the invisibility. When we’re seeing things from Chase’s point of view we can see him, but when we’re looking from a neutral or different point of view, he’s invisible. This leads to some impressive staging and some more terrific effects. Watch Neill’s performance as he’s taken out of a building at gunpoint by Chase to see what we mean!

The DVD certainly does the film justice. It’s presented in a very good anamorphic widescreen version, 16x9 TV compatible, and the picture quality is excellent.

Audio is Dolby Surround Stereo, or so they say. The quality’s fine, all things considered, but there isn’t a lot of surround in evidence.

Extras are sparse, unfortunately. We’d have loved it if there were a commentary by Carpenter - perhaps accompanied by Chase. Carpenter’s commentaries are always interesting and we can imagine that Chase would have made it even more so - especially with his memories of the ordeals of filming.

But there’s no commentary. Instead, you get some outtakes, the trailer, and the abovementioned featurette on the effects.

Still, it’s better than nothing.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man may not be a classic, but it’s a decent, entertaining and intelligent film - and if nothing else it should be seen because it’s a John Carpenter flick - and that always means a good ride!

Memoirs of an Invisible Man, from Warner Home Video
99 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital surround stereo
Starring Chevy Chase, Daryl Hannah, Sam Neill
Produced by Bruce Bodner and Dan Kolsrud
Written by Robert Collector & Dana Olsen and William Goldman, Directed by John Carpenter


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