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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)
(2018 Reissue)


Starring: Chevy Chase, Daryl Hannah, Sam Neill, Michael McKean and Stephen Tobolowsky
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £19.99


Certificate: 12
Release Date: 01 October 2018

Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992. 1 hr, 39 min, 04 sec); directed by John Carpenter is a most peculiar film. In Carpenter’s prolific career he has directed some real iconic films, this is not one of them.

On the surface it is an updating of H.F. Saint’s 1987 novel, which is itself an update of the 1897 novel by H. G. Wells. The story had been adapted numerous times, usually as a dark tragedy, but the screen play from Robert Collector, Dana Olsen and William Goldman feels like it was written by a committee who could not decide whether they wanted to make a drama or a comedy. Unfortunately, the two elements do not sit well together.

Chevy Chase plays Nick Halloway, a stock market executive, who has all the benefits which wealth bestows. He is a chancer with the gift of getting away with doing very little. The portrayal is supposed to give us the impression that he represents a shallow yuppie type, but the film provides little in the way of context. Even by the film's end we do not really get to know Nick as a character and so it is difficult to care about what happens to him.

The book had a wry humour to it as it explored the realities of being invisible. While you may imagine that you could get away with all sorts of things there is a significant downside. Once invisible Nick can no longer see himself or his clothes, he is essentially blind. Nor can anyone else see him, so cars will run him over and pedestrians walk straight into him. The only visibility occurs when he eats and the food can be seen going through his body. Thankfully the makers decided to keep the references short and not show the true horror of him turning a hotdog into faeces.

So, shallow Nick is introduced to Alice Monroe (Daryl Hannah) who will play the love interest. While undoubtedly pretty, the two hit it off remarkably quickly. Next day, a hung over Nick attends a scientific symposium. Still drowsy, he heads off to the men’s room where he falls asleep. When the accident happens Nick is the only one who is left to absorb the full effects.

While Nick is still trying to figure out what happened the government arrives in the form of Sam Neil, playing government agent, David Jenkins, a ruthless killer who sees in Nick the best spy asset he has ever not seen. Either Nick will work for him or be eliminated.

So, fairly quickly the film establishes our hero, the villain of the piece and the love interest. What follows is a game of cat and mouse between Nick and Jenkins.

The real problem with the film is Chevy Chase. He has always been a light comedian, films like Fletch (1985) and Three Amigos (1986) played to his strengths. Memoirs required a combination of both light comedy and pathos and it is the latter where Chase is unconvincing. This removes a lot of weight from Nick’s predicament, the film is only partially saved from a great over-the-top performance of Neil, as Jenkins, in many ways funnier and more nuanced than Chase’s portrayal of Nick.

The Blu-ray does come with a number of extras, all SD. How to Become Invisible: The Dawn of Digital FX (4 min, 11 sec) looks at the technical challenge of making Chase invisible. The FX haven’t stood the test of time well, but there is no doubt they were pretty good for the time. There are some Outtakes (3 min, 09 sec). You get the Original Theatrical Trailer (1 min, 55 sec) and a gallery of stills (1 min, 25 sec) a self-running photo montage.

In the end its an oddity of Carpenter's long career, which never successfully gels into either a humorous or dramatic film.


Charles Packer

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