Thursday, August 5, 2010

Invisible Menace (1938)

Boris Karloff stars in a strange stage based mystery set on a military base that has to do with the death of a weapons researcher. The film is set in motion when a bunch of soldiers on leave pile into a boat and head back to the island base. One of the men is smuggling his new wife over in the hope of a nice quiet wedding night. In the process of finding a quiet place to consummate the marriage they stumble upon a dead body. The base is locked down and a sleuth is flown in.

Weird mix of wedding night comedy (which really doesn't work) and fast paced mystery this is a rather schizophrenic film that would have been so much better had the comedy been left behind. The mystery is a dark and troubling tale with a great deal of violence and suspicion. The mystery is played for all its worth and it makes me wonder what the play the film is based on is like.

The cast is mostly excellent, only Marie Pratt, as the only woman in the cast, is less than good. The real treat here is Boris Karloff as one of the suspects. He gets a real work out as an actor going through a great deal of emotion. It was always clear that he could do more than horror parts to anyone who really watched his performances, and this is a film that proves the point.

Very short, it runs around 55 minutes, this movie moves like the wind and it never gets boring or too comedic. Absolutely worth a look if you run across it (The film is in the Turner Classic Movies rotation and on DVD in one of the Boris Karloff collections and from places like Sinister Cinema).

The mystery is 8 out of 10 The comedy is 3 out of 10 (thankfully its very brief)

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