The Invisible Man Returns

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 Invisible Man Returns
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoe May
Produced byKen Goldsmith
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Curt Siodmak
  • Joe May
Based onThe Invisible Man
by H.G. Wells
Music by
CinematographyMilton R. Krasner
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • January 12, 1940 (1940-01-12)
Running time
81 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$815,100[1]

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% rating 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.[3]

In the 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 frightened 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 fatally injured by falling from a coal wagon, but confesses to the murder before he dies.

Now cleared of all wrongdoing, Radcliffe, dying from blood loss and exposure, makes his way to Dr. Griffin. A number of Radcliffe's employees volunteer to donate blood to Radcliffe. The transfusion succeeds, making Radcliffe visible again, 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.)



Due to its critical success, the film was followed by a comedic-sequel titled The Invisible Woman which was released later that same year.


  1. Gregory Mank, "Production Background", The Invisible Man, Bear Manor Media 2013
  2. Michael Brunas, John Brunas & Tom Weaver, Universal Horrors: The Studios Classic Films, 1931-46, McFarland, 1990 p225
  3. "The 13th Academy Awards (1941) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2013-06-18.
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