Peter Lorre, Jon Hall, Cedric Hardwicke, and Ilona Massey in Invisible Agent (1942)


(director: Edward L. Marin; screenwriters: Curtis Slodmak/suggested by “The Invisible Man,” by H. G. Wells; cinematographer: Les White; editor: Edward Curtiss; music: Hans J. Salter; cast: Jon Hall (Frank Raymond), Ilona Massey (Maria Sorenson), Peter Lorre (Baron Ikito), Sir Cedric Hardwicke (Conrad Stauffer ), Keye Luke (Surgeon), J. Edward Bromberg (Karl Heiser), John Litel (John Gardiner), Holmes Herbert (Sir Alfred Spencer), Albert Basserman (Arnold Schmidt); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Frank Lloyd; Universal Pictures; 1942)

If viewed as a feel-good wartime propaganda film, the film is most effective.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Producer Frank Lloyd’s response to the great Claude Rains’ starring role in James Whale’s classic The Invisible Man (1933) is this comic strip comically inclined sci-fi thriller. Director Edward L. Marin (“a Christmas Carol”/”Abilene Town”/”Raton Pass”) helms the fantasy thriller as a wartime film exercising mainly as a flag-waver, as American agents battle with Axis spies. It’s loosely based on the novel “The Invisible Man,” by H. G. Wells, but hardly resembling it. Curtis Slodmak adapts it to the screen. Frank Raymond (Jon Hall), whose real name is Frank Griffin, runs a print shop. His grandfather invented the invisible formula in another film, in which he inherited. Foreign spies, the Japanese Baron Ikito (Peteter Lorre) and the German Conrad Stauffer (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), are at the print shop to buy the secret formula. When Frank refuses, they threaten to cut off his fingers. Frank escapes by becoming invisible and contacts American government agent John Gardiner (John Litel) for assistance. Because World War II has begun, Frank allows the Americans to use the invaluable formula but with the condition he’s the only one to use it. Thereby Frank is parachuted into Berlin as an invisible spy to steal the German war plans.

Frank is helped by the mysterious foreign spy Maria Sorenson (Ilona Massey), a double agent who might be more loyal to Gestapo officerKarl Heiser (J. Edward Bromberg).

For the most part part the Nazis are viewed as comical dolts, even when they break a prisoner’s fingers and ask him to sign a paper for international consumption that he was well treated. If viewed as a feel-good wartime propaganda film, the film is most effective. Otherwise its absurdity wastes a talented cast in escapist hokum.