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The Invisible Man: The Complete Series(TV) (1975-1976)
The thirteen-episode story of Dr. Daniel Westin, invisible man. Inspired by the H.G. Wells novel.
For more about The Invisible Man: The Complete Series and the The Invisible Man: The Complete Series Blu-ray release, see the The Invisible Man: The Complete Series Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on June 22, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 1.5 out of 5.
Starring: David McCallum
» See full cast & crew
The Invisible Man: The Complete Series Blu-ray Review
A miserable, lazy, cheap Blu-ray release.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, June 22, 2012
Science fiction stuff, if you like.
"The Invisible Man" comes from the mind of H.G. Wells. Cool concept, great source material, alright 1970s TV show, awful Blu-ray. This release is so bad it makes bad Blu-ray discs look pretty decent by comparison (think, oh, that Mill Creek release or any of those Echo Bridge titles that cram four movies onto one disc and still fare better than this atrocity). Aside from the stretched-out picture, this one looks little-to-no better than the show might have on household TV sets back in 1975, what with the standard definition video source appearance to it, false colors, all sorts of shimmering, and on and on, but not to get ahead of the review; all the juicy stuff is down below, but this release is so insulting that it would be wrong not to get a shot in at the shoddy video quality right off the bat. After all, that defines the release. But the good news is that "The Invisible Man" is on Blu-ray (well, technically and literally, but, well, yeah). Fans who don't care that the Blu-ray sometimes looks more like VHS (admittedly more so during the effects shots) and sounds like a poor DVD will be happy to know that the whole eleven hour thing is on one disc and it may be watched in one butt-numbing marathon. The show is somewhat entertaining and fans of silly era Sci-Fi might find some goodness here and there, even if ideas are few and clichés are many. "The Invisible Man" isn't great television, but it's a fun diversion; too bad the studio didn't put some more effort into making this is a good set to show the positive potential of older television on Blu-ray rather than release a set that will certainly leave viewers wary of such future ventures.
Dr. Daniel Westin (David McCallum) knows a thing or two about radically-advanced physics. He and his wife Kate (Melinda Fee) work under Walter Carlson (Jackie Cooper, Craig Stevens), head honcho at the Klae Corporation, a "glorified think tank" that employs people like Westin to develop new technologies. Westin's latest task, on which he's spent a hefty sum of cash, has been to create a teleportation device using laser beams. He's failed, and Carlson's displeasure is evident, until Westin reveals that his failure has yielded a surprisingly positive side effect: invisibility. Rather than instantly beam an object from one location to the next, he's discovered a way to render inanimate objects invisible. Though it's not what Carlson -- and his financial backers -- wanted, he and his team are thrilled with the prospects of invisibility. Westin begins tests on living tissue; he disappears a rabbit and returns it to the visible spectrum using a special serum. But he's not satisfied. He begins human trials -- using himself as the first test case -- with equally impressive results. He disappears and reappears with the help of the serum, and it's then that he learns that Carlson's been working with the Pentagon all along. The military's funneled money into Westin's project, but he won't have his science used for harm. He renders himself invisible once again, sabotages his lab, and destroys his equipment and research. But his second bout of invisibility proves tough to shake. The serum seems ineffective, and now Westin's on the run, invisible, and panicked. He turns to the only man he trusts, a longtime friend named Dr. Nick Maggio (Henry Darrow) who fits Westin with a lifelike mask that perfectly mimics his own appearance. Now, though invisible and free to do as he pleases, Westin uses his unique state to work dangerous cases under the code name "The Klae Resource;" where normal, visible agents might fail, Westin can succeed.
Wouldn't invisibility be great? Of all the superpowers, this one might be the one to have. Not that self-regeneration, the ability to fly, X-ray vision, or anything like that wouldn't be über-cool, but just imagine the possibilities with invisibility, possibilities to do good or bad (please, do good!) or, just for fun, cause a little mischief, haunt that nasty co-worker's cubicle, sneak in and alter everyone's grades on the computer, stroll into the baseball game for free and hang out on the field or in the dugout during play or, well, just let the imagination run wild. Talk about the opportunity to really be a fly on the wall, or, in this case, the invisible man on the unused corner chair. Of course, the hero of "The Invisible Man" uses his powers for good, well, mostly for good. Beyond the pilot, the show yields a slightly uneven but mostly playful tone. It has a little fun with the invisibility, but it slips into routine television drama with individual stories that are, for the most part, clever and take advantage of the invisibility angle but that never really capture the essence of the "power" or "gift" or whatever one might wish to call Westin's invisibility. There's not much in terms of character arc, digging for deep emotions, or doing much of anything beyond shaping each 48-minute storyline, and moving from start to finish with little sense of purpose beyond sorting out the week's story. The plots offer a fair bit of mystery and intrigue, but are neither truly fascinating nor absolutely dull. Outside of the invisibility angle -- which the series handles with, usually, first-person Invisible Man POV shots -- this is routine era television, serviceably entertaining fare but hardly memorable or noteworthy in any way.
Of course, the H.G. Wells "source material" is really only "the source" in name only, but that's alright. The idea is something a bit more universal; everything from Wonder Woman to Hollow Man has made use of invisibility in some form or fashion. So that the series charts its own course isn't a problem; it's welcome, really, even if it never gels into a classic. There's room for shows that offer only adequate, time-killing but not completely dumbed-down entertainment in the television sphere, and that the series manages to weekly shape and share an interesting tale means it's at least watchable. But "The Invisible Man" is far from perfect. Viewers will find many gaps in logic and ask plenty of questions both pertinent to the story and off-the-cuff as the series moves along. Why this is invisible and that is not? For instance: why do invisible eyelids hide contact lenses but clothes touching outer skin do not become invisible? Ingestible items become invisible when absorbed into the body, but can food be seen while in the process of being chewed in the mouth? Are these masks on par with those from "Mission: Impossible" that can fool even the most well-trained eye and, in this case, convey feeling (Westin and wife seem to enjoy a lot of lip-to-mask kisses)? What is Daniel Westin's wardrobe budget? He seems to shed clothes with regularity and leave them laying about, sometimes in security-sensitive areas. He drops the custom mask and gloves with nearly as much frequency. Well, these and a whole lot of other questions might be part of the reason why "The Invisible Man" isn't better than it is, but if audiences can take it all with a grain of salt and dismiss some of the questionable details, it proves to be an enjoyable little slice of throwback television that works best in small doses for a spurt of easy entertainment. It's certainly not a thinking-critical or the kind of mind, body, and soul-engaging experience that is the best of TV's best to be sure, but for casual retro TV viewing, there are worse options out there.
The Invisible Man: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Video Quality
Has "The invisible Man" seen better days? Somewhere, probably, but what should be the best the series has ever looked for general home viewing is probably the worst it has ever looked, and that might be a first for a Blu-ray release. The entire series -- all of "The Invisible Man" -- has been placed on a single 50 GB disc. That's right, all ten hours, fifty-two minutes, and forty-eight seconds worth, thirteen total episodes that each run around forty-eight minutes apiece (and the pilot about twenty-five minutes longer). On one disc. What's more, the image has been horizontally stretched from its original televised aspect ratio of 1.33:1 to fill 1.78:1 high definition displays. It would be grounds for dismissal based solely on the incorrect aspect ratio, but "The Invisible Man" isn't done there. Oh no. Not even close.
No, the image appears somewhere between a worn-down VHS and a mediocre DVD in terms of picture quality, the former defining the pilot and the latter subsequent episodes. Compression artifacts are many, of course; blocky backgrounds are commonplace, but not quite as extensive as some viewers might expect given the circumstances. The image sees frozen grain that lends a lifeless, manipulated, flat appearance to the proceedings. Fine details are nonexistent, whether skin textures or the phony bulky lab equipment. Colors are dull, but serviceable. Shadow detail is poor, and black crush is frequent; even in brighter scenes, black jackets, for instance, show no definition at all. Effects shots go incredibly blurry. Some serious false coloring frequently appears, where random splotches of reds, greens, and blues dance across parts of the screen. Shimmering, jagged edges, ringing, and other maladies make frequent appearances. For those brave enough to give it a look-see, watch the part of the pilot episode where Maggio treats Westin and supplies him with his lifelike mask; it features just about every problem there is to see. The good news, if one may call it "good," is that episodes following the pilot lack evident stretching distortion and hold up a little better in terms of raw stability, clarity, and detailing (the "mediocre DVD" part of the set). They're not abysmal, but the episodes deserve better than this set's best, which is merely "watchable" and nothing more. Simply put, this is a train wreck of a Blu-ray transfer, a disaster of epic proportions. Stop keeping track now; "The Invisible Man" will be the runaway winner for worst Blu-ray picture quality of the year.
The Invisible Man: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Considering just how much the series has been compromised to squeeze it all onto one disc, it should come as no surprise that "The Invisible Man" on Blu-ray features only a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and no subtitle options. In essence, the track delivers the basics, nothing more, and oftentimes much less. Still, even at its worst, the track fits the general needs of the show, conveying simple dialogue and crude sound effects with bottom-end acceptability. Dialogue is never really great in terms of clarity, placement, strength, or authenticity, but most every syllable is basically intelligible. Much the same may be said of music; it's cramped, largely undefined, but clear enough to the point that the basic rhythm is identifiable. Sound effects are clunky at best and absolutely indistinct at worst. Never does the track excel beyond borderline poor effects recreation. Background ambience sometimes drops out at random; characters may be chatting away at a restaurant with noticeable background elements and, suddenly, *poof*, they're gone. Add that some such atmospherics sound like crumpling paper, and most scenes would probably be better served were such elements simply deleted altogether. This track isn't quite as miserable as the video, but it's up there on the list of unfortunate Blu-ray audio presentations.
The Invisible Man: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray release of "The Invisible Man" contains no extras. What, not enough room on the disc? The menu screen features only options for episode selection and a tab to play all episodes for that butt-numbing (and eye-gouging) marathon.
The Invisible Man: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It's a sad story when a flawed but respectable and generally enjoyable 1970s television program isn't the highlight of its Blu-ray debut. The story out of this one is the terrible video transfer; it's so bad that the show is borderline unwatchable in places, the critical pilot episode in particular. Truly, this would have been an acceptable look for the show in 1975 for family viewing on the old console TV, but even then it would have been broadcast in its proper aspect ratio. There's just nothing good to say about "The Invisible Man" on Blu-ray. Even diehard fans might find this one tough to swallow. The transfer earns a point for tightening up after the atrocious presentation of the pilot episode, but subsequent shows look pretty bad, too. Here's hoping this is an outlier and not the beginning of a trend. Recommendation: send a message and refuse to even rent this one.
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