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  Memoirs of an Invisible Man Transparent Dealings
Year: 1992
Director: John Carpenter
Stars: Chevy Chase, Daryl Hannah, Sam Neill, Michael McKean, Stephen Tobolowsky, Jim Norton, Pat Skipper, Paul Perri, Richard Epcar, Steven Barr, Gregory Paul Martin, Patricia Heaton, Barry Kivel, Donald Li, Rosalind Chao, Jay Gerber, Shay Duffin
Genre: Comedy, Thriller, Science Fiction, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Something very strange happened to Nick Halloway (Chevy Chase) recently: he turned invisible. Now he is making a video of himself to tell his story, obviously he cannot be seen but he demonstrates proof he really is transparent - picking up objects, blowing a bubble of gum - then settles back to regale the viewer of how this came to be. He was a stockbroker who while being good at his job did not particularly engage with it, preferring to spend time at the gentlemen's club of which he was a member, or dutifully going out on dates suggested by his married best friend George (Michael McKean). However, one date with Alice (Daryl Hannah) went rather better than he had anticipated and they agreed to meet again...

One problem with that was the business meeting Nick had the following day, more of a conference really, where he slipped away from the dull scientific talk to sleep off his hangover for a few minutes in an upstairs office. But one problem the public had with Memoirs of an Invisible Man was accepting Chevy Chase as a serious actor, and it wasn't only audience that messed up its chances, as behind the scenes his insistence that this be a comedy-free movie put him at loggerheads with the production, including screenwriter William Goldman, hired to put a humorous spin on H.F. Saint's largely serious if fantastical novel, and director Ivan Reitman, who hoped to make something in the vein of an Invisible Man Ghostbusters.

Uh-uh, wasn't going to happen because Chase was insistent he could play this straight, so John Carpenter was hired presumably because he had experience with special effects, aside from being a safe pair of professional hands and some compromise was sought. This resulted in a film that wavers between the sincerely meant sequences of what the issues of being invisible would bring up, and more comedic scenes such as Nick hailing a cab by manipulating the body of an unconsciously drunk businessman. It was plain for all to see that it was pulling in different directions, but it deserved more of a chance than it had back in 1992, where it was more or less rejected once audiences twigged this wasn't your common or garden wacky Chevy Chase laff riot.

It's odd, since his Fletch role would appear to have demonstrated he had the chops to make it as a leading man in a light adventure such as this, though he did have a tendency to piss people off in his career, and you could argue that until his late on renaissance with sitcom Community he never really recovered - and he left Community under a cloud as well. What readers of the novel took issue with was not so much Chase's casting and more that the cult acclaim it had won for its ingenious writing had not translated to the screen: they had taken the concept and wandered off in their more conventional Hollywood stylings, leaving more of a North By Northwest of an Invisible Man, adopting the thriller template that had served them well for decades.

And would continue to do so for decades to come, therefore what you were left with was less an adaptation of Saint's only novel, and more H.G. Wells updated with some generally excellent special effects and the disappearing protagonist as the hero instead of the villain. Hannah didn't get much to do in a stock role (though she did manage to get her usual, unusual character profession crowbarred into the dialogue), yet Sam Neill was a better than average antagonist as the Government agent determined to capture Nick for use in espionage, much against Nick's will. Their rivalry was an aspect the film wisely leaned on for its tension, as a game of cat and mouse develops in the by then customary painting of the authorities, especially the Secret Services, as sinister puppet masters; it may have been a cliché by then, but it was at least partly taken from the source and operated very neatly overall. As did the movie, it was never going to be a classic, but for an undemanding adventure with state of the art effects it was a lot friendlier than Hollow Man, with a pleasing, slick air belying its troubles. Music by Shirley Walker.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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John Carpenter  (1948 - )

Skillful American writer-director of supense movies, often in the science fiction or horror genres. Comedy Dark Star and thriller Assault on Precinct 13 were low budget favourites, but mega-hit Halloween kick-started the slasher boom and Carpenter never looked back.

The Fog, Escape from New York, The Thing, the underrated Christine, Big Trouble in Little China, They Live and Prince of Darkness all gained cult standing, but his movies from the nineties onwards have been disappointing: Escape from L.A., Vampires and Ghosts of Mars all sound better than they really are, although The Ward was a fair attempt at a return, if not widely seen. Has a habit of putting his name in the title. In 2018, after branching off into music, he returned to produce another Halloween sequel. He should direct a western sometime.

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