The Invisible Man Returns is a 1940 American horror science fiction film from Universal. It was written as a sequel to the 1933 film The Invisible Man, which was based on the novel The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells. The studio had signed a multi-picture contract with Wells, and they were hoping that this film would do as well as the first. It would be followed by the comedic The Invisible Woman later the same year.
The screen play for the film was written by Lester Cole and Curt Siodmak (as Kurt Siodmak). The film director was Joe May, who had previously directed The House of the Seven Gables. (May's native language was German, and he spoke little English.) The cast of the film included Vincent Price (in his first horror film role), Cecil Kellaway, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Nan Grey, Alan Napier and John Sutton.
The film ran for 81 minutes in black-and-white with mono sound and holds an 89% at Rotten Tomatoes. The production ran slightly over budget, costing $270,000, but it returned good box office revenues. The special effects by John P. Fulton, Bernard B. Brown and William Hedgcock received an Oscar nomination in the category Best Special Effects.
In the chronology styled documentary, Ted Newson's 100 Years of Horror (1996), Price recalls that the undressing of the scarecrow scene took several hours to shoot, for only three minutes of on screen time. The transparent effect was done with black velvet covering the actor.
Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe (Vincent Price) is sentenced to death for the murder of his brother Michael, a crime he did not commit. Dr. Frank Griffin, the brother of the original invisible man (named John instead of Jack), injects the prisoner with an invisibility drug. As Radcliffe's execution nears, he suddenly vanishes from his cell. Detective Sampson (Cecil Kellaway) from the Scotland Yard guesses the truth while Radcliffe searches for the real murderer before the drug causes him to go insane.
The Radcliffe family owns a mining operation. The recently promoted employee Willie Spears (Alan Napier) is promoted within the company, stirring Radcliffe's suspicions. After forcing Spear's car off the road, Spears is scared into revealing that Richard Cobb (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), Radcliffe's cousin, is the murderer. After a confrontation, a chase scene ensues during which Radcliffe is struck by a bullet from Sampson. Cobb is killed falling from a coal wagon, but not before confessing to the murder.
Radcliffe, dying from blood loss and exposure, makes his way to Dr. Griffin. A blood transfusion makes Radcliffe visible, allowing the doctor to operate and save his life. (Vincent Price actually only appeared in the film for one minute, and spent the remainder of the movie as a disembodied voice.)Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Richard Cobb
Vincent Price as Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe / The Invisible Man
Nan Grey as Helen Manson
John Sutton as Dr. Frank Griffin
Cecil Kellaway as Inspector Sampson
Alan Napier as Willie Spears
Forrester Harvey as Ben Jenkins
Due to the critical success, the films was followed by a comedic-sequel titled, The Invisible Woman which was released later that same year, in 1940.