Director – Robert Butler, Screenplay – Jospeh L. McEveety, Story – Robert L. King, Producer – Ron Miller, Photography – Frank Phillips, Music – Robert F. Brunner, Special Effects – Danny Lee & Eustace Lycett, Makeup – Robert J. Schiffer, Art Direction – John B. Mansbridge & Walter Tyler. Production Company – Disney.
Kurt Russell (Dexter Reilly), Joe Flynn (Dean Eugene Higgins), Cesar Romero (A.J. Arno), Michael McGreevey (Richard Schuyler), Joyce Menges (Debbie Dawson), Jim Backus (Timothy Forsythe), Richard Bakalyan (Cookie), Ed Begley Jr (Druffle)
Dexter Reilly is conducting experiments into the bending of lightwaves. After lightning strikes the experiment, he discovers that he has created an invisibility formula. Meanwhile, A.J. Arno is released from jail and takes over the lease of Medfield College. While invisible, Dexter discovers Arno’s plan to turn the university into a gambling casino. Dexter invisibly aids Dean Higgins in a golf game in order to help him win a prestigious award and save the college but this has Higgins claimed as a golfing champion. Arno then discovers the secret of the formula and steals it. Dexter and friends race to stop Arno as he plans to mount a bank robbery under the cover of invisibility.
This was one of a series of Inventor films that Disney made throughout the 1960s beginning with the hit of The Absent-Minded Professor (1961). This was soon purposed to teen ends with the Merlin Jones films starring Tommy Kirk, consisting of The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1963) and The Monkey’s Uncle (1965). This was followed by the trilogy of Dexter Reilly films starring a teenage Kurt Russell.. Now You See Him, Now You Don’t was the second of the series and had been preceded by The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969) and was followed by the dull The Strongest Man in the World (1975).
The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes played itself surprisingly straight but with Now You See Him, Now You Don’t Disney’s live-action proclivities manage to assert themselves and the film takes an inevitable turn toward the slapstick. The invisibility premise certainly offers limitless potential for such and the film gets occasionally amusing mileage out of gags with guards trying to lift pairs of shoes with invisible people in them or the golf game aided by an invisible Kurt Russell.
Everything runs to an easy formula, the same one that served Disney through all its inventor films – usually a teen genius, a villainous business entrepreneur trying to foreclose, the dependence on using the discovery to win some sort of competition or sports game and the inevitable climax in a slapstick chase.
It is fairly thin material – the golfing subplot is not too well tied to the story. The special effects are routine – the various invisible shoes and invisible hands are merely matte blackout effects, although the physical effects at the climax with invisible cars crashing through fences and ladders are entertaining. The script also conducts the sin of erroneously stating that it was Albert Einstein that split the atom.
Director Robert Butler had worked in tv since the early days, making episodes of The Twilight Zone (1959-63), The Untouchables (1959-63), including the Star Trek pilot The Cage (1966) and the genre tv movies Death Takes a Holiday (1971) and Strange New World (1975), among a good many other shows. He made several Disney films with The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969) and The Barefoot Executive (1971). His last film was the ridiculous psycho on a plane disaster movie Turbulence (1997).