aka Slaves of the Invisible Monster
Director – Fred C. Brannon, Screenplay – Ronald Davidson, Producer – Herbert J. Yates, Photography (b&w) – Ellis W. Carter, Special Effects – Howard & Theodore Lydecker, Production Design – Ralph Oberg & Fred A. Ritter. Production Company – Republic
Richard Webb (Lane Carson), Aline Towne (Carol Richards), Stanley Price (The Phantom)
The criminal mastermind known as The Phantom has perfected a means whereby clothes coated with a chemical of his own invention disappear under a certain light. Invisible to all, The Phantom is using the processs to conduct a string of robberies. Insurance investigator Lane Carson is brought in to stop The Phantom before he steals the money he needs to set up an invisible fifth column.
The Invisible Monster is a serial, originally released by Republic in twelve chapters, which were serialised every week by being released before the main feature at matinee sessions every, always ending on a cliffhanger to bring audiences back the following week. The Invisible Monster was released towards the end of the serial’s heyday – the last serial was made in 1953 – and is a wholly routine effort from low-budget studio Republic.
The plot is a tedious affair, dragged out through an endless series of devices about the villain having to steal necessary chemicals, to get them back after the hero takes them, then to obtain money to get new chemicals and when that fails blackmail and ransom schemes. Why all of this necessary one is not sure – the so-called invisibility process involving a giant projector having to be carted everywhere on the back of a truck and then only able to be used like a spotlight is so ludicrously cumbersome, it would surely negate any minimal advantage that the invisibility would provide. Some of the cliffhangers are mildly exciting – the hero hanging out of windows on firehoses, trapped in a barred cubbyhole under a burning house, unconscious in a car as it crashes out through a top storey wall of a warehouse and into the river below.
The film also adds an interesting political element, which must be a first for a serial, playing on fears of Eastern bloc infiltration and fifth columns. Hero Richard Webb’s attitude to women may raise a few eyebrows – “Isn’t this a rather unusual job for a woman?” he contemptuously asks when the heroine is foisted on him by the company. That said, heroine Aline Towne succeeds in holding her end of the action up well.