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The Invisible Man Appears & The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly | A double-bill of Japanese sci-fi get the Arrow Blu-ray treatment

From Arrow Video come two fantastical Japanese riffs on HG Wells’ classic character on HD Blu-ray.

In 1949’s The Invisible Man Appears (Tômei ningen arawaru), Dr Nakazato (Chizuru Kitagawa) is on the verge of completing his invisibility serum, when he’s abducted by a masked gang, headed up by Nakazato’s lawyer, Kawabe (Shôsaku Sugiyama). At the same time, Nakazato’s assistant, Kurokawa (Kanji Koshiba), is duped into taking the serum, which will send him insane within three days. Believing there’s an antidote, Kurokawa agrees to steal a valuable diamond necklace – but he’s unaware that a trap is being set by the police to unmask Nakazato.

The Invisible Man Appears is regarded as the earliest example of Japanese sci-fi and boasts some excellent special effects from Eiji Tsuburaya, who would forever be associated with Toho’s Godzilla series. The film owes a huge debt to Universal’s successful series of ‘Invisible Man’ films, especially so the idea that the serum causes insanity (key themes in the first two Universal films in which Claude Rains and Vincent Price played the titular character).

Interestingly, the film came out the year after Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (in which Vincent Price had a cameo as the Invisible Man), while the sequel was released one year before The Fly (which propelled Price into becoming the Master of Menace).

The 1957 sequel, The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly (Tômei ningen to hae Kotoko) centres on Chief Inspector Wakabayashi (Yoshirô Kitahara) investigating some bizarre murders in which the only clue is a buzzing sound heard at the scene of the crime. With the help of a childhood pal working on an invisibility ray, Wakabayashi tracks down war criminal and former scientist, Kuroki (Fujio Harumoto), who is behind the attacks and out for revenge. Using a miniaturisation gas to escape, Kuroki becomes the terror of Tokyo as the Human Fly.

The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly is a crazy combination of sci-fi thrills and crime drama spills. While the first film pays homage to the popular American serials of the 1940s, the sequel takes its stylistic cues from gritty film noirs of the 1950s like Kiss Me Deadly (sex, murder, addiction all feature) and the comic book capers of TV’s The Adventures of Superman (just check out the cool retro-futuristic cosmic ray lab).

With its young, good-looking cast wearing chic dresses and sharp suits, the film is a time-capsule glimpse of a newly-Westernised Japan and a precursor to the modern yakuza films that would emerge at the end of the decade.

The Invisible Man Appears and The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly are out on Blu-ray from Arrow Video, and also available via the ARROW streaming platform.

Transparent Terrors: Kim Newman on the history of the ‘Invisible Man’ in cinema
• Theatrical trailer for The Invisible Man Appears
• Image galleries for both films
• New and original artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Keith Allison, Hayley Scanlon and Tom Vincent

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