Memoirs of an Invisible Man (Blu-ray Review)
Release Date(s)1992 (July 24, 2018)
Studio(s)Warner Bros. (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B-
Based upon the novel of the same name, Memoirs of an Invisible Man was, unfortunately, not a high point in the careers of the most of the people involved with it. Released in 1992, the film features Chevy Chase as Nick Halloway, a lonely businessman who spends most of his time at the bar avoiding other people. After a reluctant night of being introduced to a lovely woman (Daryl Hannah) by a friend (Michael McKean) and having a bit too much to drink, he winds up with a hangover and having to attend a meeting at a local laboratory the next morning. After an accident in the lab leaves him totally invisible, he finds himself on the run from a deadly C.I.A. agent (Sam Neill) with almost nowhere to turn and nobody he can trust.
Memoirs of an Invisible Man was ultimately a vanity project for Chase who, at the time, wanted to steer clear of making outright comedies and take on more serious roles. John Carpenter was brought onto the project after being intrigued by the idea of working with Chase and making a noir-ish invisible man movie. Unfortunately, Carpenter and Chase didn’t get along that well and Carpenter didn’t have a whole lot of control over the project, subsequently meaning that it wasn’t a pleasant experience for him. It also didn’t help that the movie bombed upon release as many critics couldn’t make heads or tails of it. For audiences, John Carpenter fans weren’t happy with it and neither was anybody who expected a broader comedy.
I’m delighted to discover that time has been kind to Memoirs of an Invisible Man. Now that many years have gone by and the stigma of the moment the film was released have passed, it’s obvious that it’s better than most folks remember it to be. You can kind of see what Carpenter was trying to do with it. As someone who’s a fan of Howard Hawks, mild influences from things like His Girl Friday are definitely noticeable. It also has a bit of a Hitchcock vibe to it as well, with a “man on the run from opposing figures for being in the wrong place at the right time” type of plot. Chevy Chase does a good job in the film as well, specifically when he’s not saying anything. And then there are the groundbreaking invisible effects which, even in high definition, hold up remarkably well.
Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray release of the film is another great acquisition from Warner Bros. According to the inner artwork, “this new 2018 high definition transfer was created in 2K resolution at Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging on the Lasergraphics Director scanner from an archival interpositive.” It’s quite an organic and natural presentation with solid grain and high levels of fine detail. As I said previously, the invisible effects hold up surprisingly well; the increase in grain and a mild softness when they occur is much more minimal than a lot of films with similar effects from before and after. Colors never pop all that much as this was never that colorful a movie in the first place, but they’re well-represented. Blacks are deep while brightness and contrast levels are satisfactory. It’s virtually clean and stable from start to finish with no major blemishes on display. Aesthetically, it naturally feels like the era it was made in, which is a good thing. The audio is provided in English 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. There’s definite stereo sound placement when it comes to background and ambient activity, as well as occasional panning, but it’s not an overly aggressive presentation. Dialogue is clear and discernible while sound effects and score have a slight boost to them. Everything comes through clearly without any issues.
The extras selection includes a bevy of previously available material, as well as everything leftover from Warner’s promotional archive. This includes How to Become Invisible: The Dawn of Digital F/X, a vintage 4-minute featurette on how the groundbreaking invisible effects were achieved; 5 1/2 minutes of vintage promotional interviews with John Carpenter, Chevy Chase, and Daryl Hannah; 5 minutes of raw behind the scenes footage; 5 deleted and extended scenes, which are listed here as “outtakes”; the film’s original theatrical trailer; and a set of 10 TV spots. Unfortunately, the 30-minute HBO making-of documentary and the 1-minute behind-the-scenes Easter egg from the previous DVD release are absent (the former likely missing due to licensing issues). It would have been nice to have heard Carpenter’s thoughts about the movie now on a new audio commentary, good or bad, but having most of the promotional material for the movie in one package is much appreciated.
One does have to wonder what kind of movie Memoirs of an Invisible Man would have been had John Carpenter had more control over it from the very beginning. He was basically a hired gun for the project, meaning that his input on it didn’t always have an impact. Critics declared it both a failed comedy and a suspense-less adventure story containing pedestrian qualities, giving more praise to the effects than anything else. However, it’s definitely worth a second look for those who didn’t care for it all that much the first time through. It’s a charming and simple movie that I hope gets further reappraisal. And Scream Factory rescuing another John Carpenter movie from the vaults with a great transfer is reason enough to check it out for yourself. Recommended!
- Tim Salmons