The Invisible Man

Starring: Pip Donaghy
RRP: 12.99
Certificate: PG
Available 04 April 2005

Dr Griffin, played by Pip Donaghy, uses his scientific brilliance to make himself invisible and as a consequence of this goes of an orgy of petty theft and common assault under the guise of taking his revenge on society. His insistence at running round the English countryside naked, leads to his timely, but not so tragic end...

Produced by Barry Letts, a then veteran of Doctor Who and directed by Brian Lighthill, The Invisible Man has been filmed a number of times and this was the third television adaptation, originally scheduled as a six parter to fill the Sunday tea time slot it was successfully moved to a more prestigious midweek evening slot.

To be honest I don't remember watching the series when it was originally transmitted, so came to this with no preconceived prejudices, and I am sorry to say I didn't like it. In fact, to tell the truth, I fell asleep twice trying to work my way through all six episodes. The Invisible Man starts on a feeling of mystery and dread and then just keeps it up for all six episodes leaving the viewer with a feeling of sensory overload.

A lot of the faults with the production stem from following the original book too closely. What works in a novel doesn't always work as a piece of drama. With the loss of the descriptive passages, to add depth and character insight, the dramatist is thrown back on creating contrasting scenes which brings out the comedy and drama of the story, and this just didn't happen. There are many good individual performances in the piece, the 'oh ah thrickity' West Country landlady, is a nice comic turn in an otherwise unrelenting story. It also boasts a plethora of character actors and actresses from that period, who individually do a good job.

The main problem comes from the central character of Dr Griffin. His motivation appears obscure leaving the viewer with little more than a parody of a mad scientist, though I suppose that running round the English countryside naked, getting goose pimples, would be enough to break even the strongest will. Nor is it really explored either why he has such resentment towards society or why he thinks that being invisible will bring him power.

The special effects are fine given its age and the budgetary limitations on a television drama. The sight of the odd axe or knife floating through the air just isn't as menacing as I'm sure they thought it would be, and I never did work out why his nose and hair were visible when he was covered by bandages, but otherwise invisible, although I may have fallen asleep at that point.

The incidental music is really that, far and few between, which sounds a little odd to the modern viewer as it appears to have been inserted almost at random. Scenes which could have benefited from music are silent, and the lighter moments are not scored at all, the music's thematic range seems limited to pre-dread and dread.

There is only a single extra on the DVD, and a strange one at that, given that is an extract of the Did You See program' with Ludovic Kennedy, where the general consensus is that the program, like the original novel, really doesn't work all that well. Picture quality betrays the age of the show, but is eminently watchable, with no noticeable artefacts, but with some colour bleed giving the picture a very soft feel. The disc comes with the usual episode and scene selection options as well subtitles.

Charles Packer

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