The Invisible Agent Blu-ray Review

For the Homeland

Post-Pearl Harbor, Americans despised the Japanese enough that Hungarian Peter Lorre could pass as Asian. “I can’t tell you Japs apart,” spouts star Jon Hall, the most average of Americans thrust into the role of American spy.

A malleable series, by 1942, Universal’s Invisible Man series took the reigns of war propaganda. Short of shilling for war bonds, it’s hard to separate Invisible Agent from the litany of anti-German cinema of the time. It’s a movie using sci-fi as a mere jumping off point. Succinctly, Invisible Agent spills a tale of a man willing to potentially sacrifice everything to snuff out a German plot to bomb New York. In this case, “everything” is his visibility.

There is a tenuous connection to The Invisible Man – Hall is written as the grandson of Claude Rains’ character from the original, not that it matters. Hall parachutes into action behind German lines, using his cloaking ability to make a fool of a German officer having dinner while romancing a German woman.

… there’s a snappy story of deceit throughout Invisible Agent, enough to keep the energy up between those moments of wartime pep rallies

Invisible Agent does many things, ranging from an escape thriller as Hall sets fire to a German office, a comedy as a doltish German struggles to use a lighter, and a pro-American cheer. The lone American outwits the entirety of the German force, stealing secrets to expose a devious plot. Hall isn’t playing a military man. No, he’s a meager printshop owner, spurred into action after papers send out Pearl Harbor headlines. His agreement to the military is born of patriotism, of which Invisible Agent is never subtle about.

Significant dialog is spent turning the German socialist ideology against itself. Counter to that, Hall monologues about freedom and what it costs. Luckily, there’s a snappy story of deceit throughout Invisible Agent, enough to keep the energy up between wartime pep rallies. Tension does run high, even as Invisible Agent dips into comedic scenes. A ruthless German played by Cedric Hardwicke makes for a central villain in case the rest of the army isn’t enough. Ilona Massey has enough spunk as a love interest and double agent to spark Invisible Agent too.

While a film of its time, the use of the Invisible Man in such a context shows a versatility. There’s less redundancy in Invisible Man than say, the original Mummy series that never took a risk. While routine in its antics, Invisible Agent takes a chance to expand the possibilities of H.G. Wells’ concept.

Video

Here’s a bit of a sore spot. While Invisible Agent does show a hint of grain, there’s a greater insistence on filtering. The loss of definition at the hand of noise reduction is a critical loss. While the Universal Monsters roster typically shows a preference for source accuracy, here is one of the few anomalies.

It’s the usual problems from mastering of this ilk. Some glossy faces, overall softness, and a mild hint of smearing do show. Voided skin texture gives the presentation a crude, unnatural look. Scenery falls into mush.

Everything else works. The print suffers no imperfections. Gray scale works to maintain a consistent depth and a more gothic cinematography than two prior Invisible Man entries. Some shots in pure darkness pose a challenge to the disc. Universal’s work handles this all well.

Audio

A few wartime scenes demand work from this DTS-HD mono track. Anti-aircraft guns fire with some low-end potency, rendered cleanly from this track. That boomy bass is called into action multiple times, and effectively renders the sound with unusual clarity for something this vintage. Likewise, highs from the score find a pleasing sharpness.

Dialog comes through the single channel without obstruction. Hiss and pop due to age is avoided.

Extras

A theatrical trailer is offered, coupled with the next sequel on the same disc, The Invisible Man’s Revenge.

The Invisible Agent
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  • Extras
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Movie

The Invisible Agent tells a WWII thriller story involving spies, deceit, and romance, fit for audience looking to spite the Germans.

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