1970s Invisible Man on DVD

Tuesday, 09 July 2013 00:00
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The The Invisible Man - The McCallum version out on DVDBased loosely on the novel by HG Wells, this take on The Invisible Man stars David McCallum (NCIS, Sapphire & Steel, The Man from UNCLE) as Dr Daniel Westin, a scientist working on top secret laser technology. Dan stumbles on a way to make objects become invisible for a short period of time, and – under pressure to deliver results before his funding dries up – subjects himself to the process, only to discover he turns invisible indefinitely.

Along with his co-worker and wife Kate (Melinda Fee – “A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge”), Dan is forced to come to an agreement with his employer, The KLAE Corporation. In return for not turning the technology over to the military, he will engage in missions that utilise his unique new ability, with Kate acting as a partner. If all other avenues have failed and stealth is required, Daniel Westin is your man.

Co-developed by Steven Bochco (NYPD Blue) and Harve Bennett (producer on numerous “Star Trek” movies), the series features thirteen entertaining capers where Dan and Kate typically go undercover, investigate their target and then Dan strips off, sneaks around and together they foil the crime or solve the riddle.

Whilst the pilot is edgy, dark, written for a more mature market and quite reminiscent of The Incredible Hulk, the following episodes are generally much lighter in tone. I guess it is quite common for the transition from a pilot to a full series to involve some changes, but personally I prefer the tone of the former. In it, Dan is a brooding, angst-riddled scientist who is desperate to succeed but concerned that his discoveries might fall into the wrong hands. Above all else he is determined that his research is not turned over to the military and instead is used as a force for good, such as helping to cure cancer patients.

Come the series proper, and most of this is jettisoned in favour of a more upbeat series where Dan forgets his prior mission to become visible again. He still utilises state-of-the-art artificial skin to make him look normal, and this is used to good effect when he goes incognito.

Once you adjust to the tone and format of the regular episodes, you are left with a fun series that hinges on the great chemistry between McCallum and Fee, and their effervescent characters. Kate features as much as her husband in the stories, commonly distracting their adversaries using all of her womanly wiles. It makes a refreshing change from the norm where the wife or partner is often a thinly-sketched caricature.

The invisibility effects are primitive by today’s standards but still quite effective, and sometimes result in spooky scenes where McCallum’s head, eyes or hands float around on their own. Perhaps more unnerving still is the fact that he has to creep around in the buff to fully benefit from his special ability! Scenes where he is captured and then surreptitiously strips off in the back of the baddies’ car never get old. Sometimes you cannot help giggling at the daftness of it all, and much of the time the humour is intentional.

I would recommend this series to fans of quirky, cult 1970s and 1980s shows such as Manimal and the very similarly-themed Gemini Man. They might have been short-lived but they have a certain charm and offer plenty of nostalgia value.

Special features include:

  • Cast Filmographies
  • Picture Gallery
  • Subtitles

 

To be frank, this is absolute bare-bones bonus content and it is a shame that they could not get an interview with McCallum or Fee. On the plus side, the picture quality is surprisingly good, though the video trickery used for the invisibility scenes always gives the game away because the image becomes slightly fuzzy as a result. Finally, the theme music is by Henry Mancini of “The Pink Panther” fame, though it has to be said that is not in the same league as that classic tune.

The Invisible Man (1975-76) is out now on DVD, courtesy of Acorn Media. The entire four-disc, 13 episode season has a running time of 631 minutes approx, carries a ‘12’ certificate and retails for £32.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

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