Archive for Invisible Man

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Starlog’s pop culture history of invisibility (1992)

Posted in magazine, movies, pop culture, Starlog, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , on October 15, 2015 by Paxton

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In issue 177 of Starlog magazine, which showcases an interview with John Carpenter about his upcoming Memoirs of an Invisible Man, there is an article by Michael Wolff on the pop culture history of invisibility. It’s written as if invisibility exists and is recounting the many different ways one would make oneself invisible. And throughout the article Wolff peppers in movies and TV shows that featured some form of invisibility.

Here’s the article, click to make the images BIGGER.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Interview with John Carpenter about Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)

Posted in magazine, monsters, movies, pop culture, Starlog with tags , , , , , , , on October 14, 2015 by Paxton

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Issue 177 of Starlog magazine featured a cover story on the soon to be released Chevy Chase movie, Memoirs of an Invisible Man (which I reviewed yesterday).

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The featured story is an in-depth interview with the movie’s director, John Carpenter.  He had just come off a hiatus of several years to direct this big budget studio movie.  Being an indie staple, Carpenter had never really done a large studio movie before.  In the article, he discusses why he took the job and a little bit about the history of the project.

Talking about the movie, Carpenter mentions that this project had been around since 1986 and that it’s based on a book by HF Saint.  Obviously, the part about the novel is true, as I’ve reviewed that novel this month, however, the book wasn’t actually published until 1987.  And while studios today will buy up book rights before books are published, it was not done at that time.  However, Carpenter could just be off in his memory by a year, not a big deal.

Carpenter also mentions that Chevy Chase himself bought the rights to the book and the first drafts of the movie were written by the great William Goldman with Ivan Reitman attached to direct.  However, Carpenter said that after everything was “set to go” Chase decided he didn’t want to do a “Stooge” comedy.  He wanted more of an adventure movie.  Which seems odd to me because the book is NOT a comedy.  I guess Goldman/Reitman assumed that’s what they’d be doing with Chevy Chase attached and adapted the book that way.  I tell you what, I’d love to see a Goldman/Reitman/Chase invisible man comedy movie.  I’d be 100% on board for that.  But that iteration of the movie fell apart and is sadly placed on top of the giant pile labeled “movies we’ll never see”.  After Goldman and Reitman left Richard Donner came on to direct and did some work but eventually he left as well.  It was then Chevy Chase that brought Carpenter on to the project as director.

So this movie has an interesting back story.  Clearly, it was a passion/vanity project for Chase.  He controlled nearly every aspect of production.  Carpenter’s interview is very informative with lots of “inside Hollywood” info.

Below is the full story. Click the images to make them BIGGER.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , on October 13, 2015 by Paxton

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In the late 80s Chevy Chase bought the rights to a 1987 thriller novel about an invisible man in order to turn it into a vehicle for himself. After several years of development hell in which the director changed at least twice and the tone of the movie switched from thriller to comedy and back to thriller, Chevy finally got John Carpenter to direct and the result was the 1992 comedic adventure, Memoirs of an Invisible Man.

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The chaotic development of this movie was somewhat chronicled by Carpenter himself in an interview published in Starlog #177.  It’s interesting the iterations that this movie finally went through, check out that article in the link to see what Carpenter had to say about directing this movie.

I’d seen this movie back when it first hit VHS.  I remember it in theaters at the time, but I didn’t see it because I was not really a Chevy Chase fan.  He was kind of in the middle of a phase in his career in which he was playing smug douchebags (see Funny Farm, Nothing But Trouble, Deal of the Century and even Fletch Lives which is nearly unwatchable).  So when it finally hit VHS, I rented it and gave it a shot.  However, at the time I don’t remember liking it very much and thinking Chase was once again playing the smug D-bag who’s better and smarter than everyone else.

When I watched it for this review, I did it reluctantly, but I was curious to see if my previous thoughts were correct.  And they were not.  Chevy is actually mostly toned down in this movie.  He’s goofy and endearing much the same way he was in the original Fletch.  And Daryl Hannah is just adorable and sexy all wrapped up in one amazing package.  The villain, I forgot, is the great Sam Neill who does NOT get enough play in movies today (Check out Daybreakers if you doubt my sincerity in that statement).  This would be about 2 years before Neill would play Dr Grant in the first Jurassic Park movie.  Other notable actors in this movie are the awesome Michael McKean, Stephen Tobolowsky and the first big screen appearance of Patricia Heaton.

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The setup of the movie is basically the same as the book. A guy, Nick Halloway (Chase) is trapped in an experimental process that goes wrong and is turned invisible. He comes to the attention of a shady government group led by David Jenkins (Neill) who does everything he can to capture Halloway.

However, while those story points are the same, the details have changed tremendously. For instance, Daryl Hannah’s Alice meets Nick before he turns invisible whereas in the book Alice doesn’t meet him until the last half of the book and has never actually seen him. Plus, the action takes place in and around San Francisco whereas in the book everything took place, for the most part, in New York City. In fact, I’d say New York City is a major character in the book as Nick knows the city pretty well and uses it to hide from the shady government agency.

But I’m here to review the movie as a whole, and not as an adaptation of the book. And, as a whole, the movie is enjoyable. Despite the changes from the book, I felt the movie was entertaining and the effects were actually pretty good. They even recreated invisible stunts from the book like vomiting and you get to see Nick smoke and covered in rain. Nice little effects that add up within the movie.  The only negative I can place at the movie’s feet is the fact that the “memoirs” part of the story is essentially dropped not even half way through the movie.  I liked Chevy’s narration and it helped remind me how much I also liked it (and Chevy) in the original Fletch.  But, alas, it doesn’t last.

Something else I liked in the movie included a scene in which Nick is wearing the same outfit as the Claude Rains Invisible Man including the goggles, the robe with the checkered lapels and even an ascot.

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That was a nice touch by Carpenter.  This is a completely different movie than you’d expect from John Carpenter who’d just directed They Live four years before and had taken an extended break due to production difficulties on that movie.  Two years after directing this movie he’d take Sam Neill and film an adaptation of Lovecraft’s In the Mouth of Madness. Also two years later Chevy Chase would top line Cops and Robersons with Jack Palance.

So while this movie may not have burned up the box office, it’s actually a fun little adventure movie.  Give it a shot if you haven’t.  And if it’s been a few years, I say give it another spin, I think you’ll like it.


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1987) – H.F. Saint

Posted in books, Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2015 by Paxton

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In 1987, H.F. Saint would write his first and only book, the sci-fi thriller, Memoirs of an Invisible Man.

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It’s essentially a more modern, comedic take on HG Wells’ classic story.  The book had great success after it was first published and subsequently Saint would receive an unusually high sum for the movie rights in the early 90s.  This lead to Saint deciding he would rather retire than write a sequel that potentially wouldn’t live up to his first book.

Like most everyone else, I was aware of the 1992 Chevy Chase movie of the same name, but not that it was based on a previous book.  I have thoughts on that movie that I’ll reveal in a separate review, and, consequently, I was a little reluctant to start the book because of those thoughts about the movie.  But I sucked it up for AWESOME-tober-fest 2015.

So, the plot.  Essentially, like I said, this is a new, more modern take on the concept of the invisible man.  Nick Halloway is an investment banker.  He travels with his sometimes gal pal Anne to a scientific demonstration at MicroMagnetics Labs and becomes caught in a massive explosion and wakes up several hours later completely invisible.  While sealing off the area, a shady government agency discovers that Nick survived the explosion, and is invisible, so they do everything they can to capture him.  Now Nick must stay one step ahead of his pursuers led doggedly by Colonel David Jenkins who seems to be several steps ahead of Nick who only narrowly escapes being caught on several occasions.  Can Nick keep from getting captured and becoming a lab rat/covert government agent for the rest of his life?  He’ll certainly try.

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The book, to put it bluntly, is pretty damn awesome.  Luckily, I haven’t watched the movie since it was in the theater, so I went into this book mostly blind.  The events take a while to setup.  It’s about 60 pages before the lab explosion.  It’s over 100 pages before Nick escapes the labs of MicroMagnetics and goes on the run on the streets of New York.  Throughout this book HF Saint really dives into explaining the unique problems Halloway encounters because he’s invisible.  Not just the physical stuff like seeing through your eyelids, watching your food digest and walking without any visual body references.   Most of this stuff gets mentioned briefly in the original HG Wells book as well as the Universal Invisible Man movie.  No, it’s living on the streets as an invisible man where Saint really digs in.

How would Nick find a place to sleep?  Sneak into one of the many Manhattan men’s clubs?  Or vacant apartments?  What about food?  How do you walk the crowded streets of New York without bumping into other people and revealing yourself?  How do you shed your previous identity and acquire a new one when you are invisible and can’t provide ID or show up to meet anyone?  There are lots of problems Nick has to overcome which would be hard enough even without a determined government agency out to capture you at all costs.

The book has periods of Nick living rogue within New York and how his whole “system” works (how he acquires places to live, food and learning about the nature of his invisibility).  And then the government agency finds him and we have quick, thrilling periods where Nick is all of a sudden forced to drop everything and go on the run again.  It’s a roller coaster ride and one I thoroughly enjoyed which had me guessing and anticipating how it was going to end.

Another thing I like about this book is the way it’s setup.  It’s written by the main character sometime in the future.  He’s relating the events of the book to us as they happened in the past (like the title states, it’s a “memoir”).  This allows the book to drop small hints about how things turn out in the future.  Now that the book is over, I wish HF Saint would have continued with Nick Halloway’s adventures.


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: The Hollow Man (2000)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies with tags , , , , , , , on October 9, 2015 by Paxton

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Today I’m going to look at another more modern take on the concept of the invisible man.  Let’s check out The Hollow Man starring Kevin Bacon and directed by Paul Verhoeven.

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It was released in 2000 and had a great supporting cast including Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin, Kim Dickens and William Devane.

I remember seeing this movie in the theater fifteen years ago. For some reason I remember it being an early screening a week or so before the wide release. Sometimes movies would come and play early at one of my theaters in Birmingham as sort of a promotional/press screening and “regular people” could get any extra seats they couldn’t give away. But I’m not 100% sure that’s what happened. Regardless, I saw this in the theater in 2000.

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From that initial viewing, I remember liking some of the concepts of the movie and the special effects but being underwhelmed by the movie as a whole. I haven’t watched this movie since that day in the theater, so I decided to rewatch it and review it for AWESOME-tober-fest this year.

The movie is pretty good. It’s a mostly closed set environment. The scientists all interact in an underground lab. Once or twice you are taken to the surface, but 90% of the action is in the underground lab. Kevin Bacon plays Sebastian Caine, the head of a team of scientists working on achieving invisibility.  The team has successfully turned a gorilla invisible, but the issue they seem to be having is turning the gorilla back visible.

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Early on Bacon has a breakthrough and figures out how to possibly make the re-visibility formula work. So they test it on the invisible gorilla.  And it works.  But Bacon being the smug, a-hole, glory loving scientist he is decides to test the entire process on himself.  And that’s where the fun begins.

Bacon is pretty great as Caine who sees himself as a cross between Einstein and Elvis Presley.  He plays the total creepy, smug, d-bag to perfection.  Elisabeth Shue is his colleague and former flame.  James Brolin is another scientist on the team who is currently with Elisabeth Shue.  And therein creates the love triangle.  There are several other scientists/murder victims that inhabit this lab as well.

Like I said, this movie is mostly executed well.  Bacon, even though he’s not seen through most of the movie, believably shows Caine’s slow decent into madness from being invisible for too long.  The other actors play against him realistically unlike the actors in Star Wars Episode I against Jar Jar Binks which was only the year before.  But the shining star in this movie are the effects.  The invisible effects are amazing and they still hold up very well considering they are a decade and a half old.  I’m willing to bet that the visual effects in the 1999 The Mummy movie were what convinced the filmmakers that this movie could be made.  There are several times where Bacon’s invisible man looks like the mummy in that movie.

Some good moments:

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At this moment in the movie, the team is fresh off turning the gorilla visible again. They are celebrating and Caine asks Shue’s character if she wishes they could turn back the clock, essentially asking if she wishes they were back together. Shue says the line, “I’d say that kind of time travel doesn’t exist.” I assume that has to be a slight nod to her small roles in Back to the Future Part II and Part III.

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Like I said, the effects are pretty great. The transition to invisibility involves each layer of the body disappearing one step at a time, like you’re slowly peeling away the layers of an onion. Lots of data modeling had to be done before hand to make this work as effectively as it does.  This “layered invisibility” was also done in the Batman Unseen comic.

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Here is where the title comes from.  Instead of wearing bandages and goggles like Claude Rains, Bacon and the scientists have a latex mold of his head created so he can walk around visible to everyone.  This “mask” creates a “hollow shell” look that is very creepy and effective.

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The few times he actually leaves the lab Bacon wears more familiar “invisible man” garb.

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There are several scenes in the movie where the environment makes Bacon visible. Things like fire hydrant foam, smoke and water will reveal his body. It looks great and it’s used effectively throughout the movie.

So, overall, a pretty good movie. Similar in some respects to other “stalker in a confined space” type movies but the concept of the killer being invisible sets it a little bit apart.  And the phenomenal effects just make the movie that much more real and creepy.


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