The Invisible Man was a TV series broadcast in the 1970s on NBC. It starred David McCallum as Daniel Westin, a scientist working for the Klae Corporation. During a series of experiments on molecular disintegration, he discovers that he is able to turn animals invisible. When the potential for exploitation dawns on him he decides to destroy the equipment, accidentally becoming invisible in the process. Cripes!
That is the base from which a show is hewn. It’s sci-fi with lower-case S, and it’s not meant to be taken that seriously. Modern audiences used to gritty realism wouldn’t appreciate the show’s lackadaisical approach to scientific detail, nor is it possible to unironically enjoy the SFX, achieved through judicious use of green screen. The scene in which Westlin gets his face painted back on is particularly amusing.
This is no Hollow Man – this TV series is far superior to that film, but it has nowhere near the level of malice or violence that film contained. The episodes aren’t even really meant to be viewed in order – they’re designed for network syndication, which does mean that there’s no real story arc. As long as you watch the pilot first, then you can dip in to episode nine – “Pin Money” – or episode four – “Eyes Only” – without worrying about losing your thread.
The words “seventies sci-fi adventure” bring to mind several images, and this series lives up to all of them. Yes, the SFX haven’t aged well. Yes, the music is awful. Yes, the performances aren’t great. But nobody could ever say that the cast don’t give it their all. The game performances that they give episode after episode mean that there’s no particularly weak installments – every episode is enjoyable in some way. The best, aside from the pilot, is “Stop When The Red Lights Flash” – episode eight – because it represents perfectly the menial adventures they get up to with this incredible power.
When Westin and his wife Kate are driving home, they stop by a school bus with red lights flashing. It turns out that this is a criminal scheme set up by local law enforcement to gain fines from innocent drivers. There’s some fantastic court room scenes, and some great slapstick at the end when the judge – in on it the entire time – is chased out of court and literally disrobed.
While it is dated, it’s a lot of fun. Anyone who grew up on American cop dramas and detective series’ will appreciate the aesthetic and mood – think early Columbo. It may look a little fuzzy, and the dialogue may be corny, and you better believe that the show’s view of the world is black and white, but go in with an open mind and you’ll come out smiling. A great way to spend a few afternoons.