Friday, October 1, 2021

The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly

The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly
Mitsuo Murayama

Someone is murdering a seemingly random string of people. There is no evidence left behind save for people reporting hearing a buzzing sound. As they die, victims often motion to the sky or swat at their own faces indicating… an insect? One victim is an associate of another scientist who has developed a ray that can turn things invisible. Is there some kind of connection?

"Allow me to vent. Haha!"

The concept of The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly sounds like pure pulp mayhem; two characters with superpowers duking it out across Tokyo in fast paced comic book mayhem. So, imagine my surprise to discover that this film is, in fact, the exact opposite of that, a methodical police procedural where we follow the police's fumbling attempts to stop a mysterious killer by discovering their motive and methods. Admittedly the method is outlandish, but we spend much of our time with regular detectives doing regular detective work.

The visualization (so to speak) of the invisible man antics are fine if nothing you haven’t seen before in other movies featuring invisible people. The human fly elements are decidedly stranger, to become a Human Fly you must break an ampule which releases a cloud of gas. Breath it in and you shrink while gaining the ability to fly. To make things a little spicier the ampules are addictive and can make the user vicious. I appreciate the film’s efforts but to see a tiny person lazily flying around a room doesn’t instill much fear no matter how many people get stabbed over the course of the story.

"Being invisible sure has a peel. Haha!"

So, what we have is a very strange film, a grim murder mystery where the casualties start piling up eventually into the hundreds , a serious discussion about the ethics and dangers of using invisibility, and the inner workings of a criminal organization and their monopoly on chemicals that turn you into a human fly. I will definitely give The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly points for an original concept and an unusual approach to the material, but the film ends up too staid for its own good. I’m all for taking silly premises seriously, it’s really the key to making a film like this work. This film moves too slowly and too methodically. It forgets to have much fun with its science-fiction elements. The height of the invisibility gags is seeing someone peel a banana. The human fly elements get a bit more play but most that action is reserved for off screen.

If approach The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly as more of a crime film that a superhero or science-fiction film I think you will find it imminently more enjoyable. It might not be the most exciting film you’ll encounter but it is a very mature and unique genre film for the late 1950s. Even though it is flawed, I have to admit it has its own subtle charms.

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