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Memoirs of an Invisible Man

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Carpenter’s Nowhere to Be Seen in his Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)

Carpenter’s Nowhere to Be Seen in his Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)

John Carpenter’s first entry in the 1990s, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, plays like the death knell of the genre icon’s impressive career, marking the beginning of his last prolific decade. Sans the usual “John Carpenter’s” ownership which usually precedes his titles, it was one of a couple director-for-hire projects Carpenter (perhaps) unwisely agreed to (but 1995’s Village of the Damned remake at least allows for a semblance of his tone and style). Overwhelmed by the lugubrious smarm of Chevy Chase, whose sparring with Ivan Reitman over the tone of the film had the Ghostbusters director replaced by the studio, this is a misguided romantic comedy entry into the Invisible Man canon so vibrantly born from the mind of H.G. Wells and the eventual cinematic artistry of James Whale and Claude Rains in 1933.

Following a freak nuclear accident, stock analyst Nick Halloway (Chase) wakes from a nap to discover he’s suddenly invisible, which severely complicates a budding romance with a beautiful documentary producer (Daryl Hannah). As he navigates his predicament, a rogue CIA agent (Sam Neill) takes it upon himself to capture the elusive invisible man.

Much like his forced chemistry with Demi Moore in the previous year’s Nothing But Trouble (1991), Chase’s seduction of Daryl Hannah, here the bauble headed producer of documentaries who falls immediately for the invisible charms of Chase’s smug elitism, is one of many foundational problems of the narrative. At the same time, its important to note Memoirs was released the same year as the similarly themed special effects extravaganza Death Becomes Her from Robert Zemeckis, which makes Carpenter’s film feel like a retroactive anachronism. Based on the novel by H.F. Saint, the script by Robert Collector and Dana Olsen (William Goldman remains credited but apparently his version of the film was significantly revised) is at best milquetoast and at worst, derivative.

It would have helped, of course, if Chase had remained invisible, as he’s rarely seen to be so, even though his disembodied voice is narrating his misadventures from the opening sequence. But it would seem the once notable personality demanded more screen time to engage in several moments of rather paltry physical antics, which could have easily been adapted for a non-sentient screen presence. Sam Neill, as a not-so-bad CIA agent and Michael McKean as an equally smarmy colleague of Chase seem wasted here, but it would seem Neill’s casting would allow for what would become a much better (and neglected) Carpenter film, 1995’s In the Mouth of Madness (1995).

Shout Factory presents Memoirs of an Invisible Man in 2.35:1 with DTS-HD Master Audio from a new 2K scan from the interpositive. Picture and sound quality are impressive in a title which prizes its special effects moments over characterization and narrative. A special feature on the beginnings of digital FX and some outtakes are available as extra features.

Film Review: ★★/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc Review: ★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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