H.G. Well’s Invisible Man – The Mink Coat

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Two criminals break into an atomic plant and take photographs of a series of secret plans.  But how will they get them out of the country?  When Dee, traveling to Paris with Brady, spots a shady type – Walker (Derek Godfrey) – placing something into the lining of a mink coat owned by Penny Page (Hazel Court), she realises that something odd is happening.  And soon they put two and two together ….

It has to be said that the secret plans weren’t terribly secure.  The two crooks (immaculately attired in suits, ties and hats, as befits a well-dressed criminal from the 1950’s) only have to snip through some barbed wire and they’ve gained access to the compound.  And once in, they have no trouble in locating the plans which are inside an unlocked drawer.  Maybe putting them into a safe would have been wiser.

Top marks for the security guard, who dies an impressive death.  No sooner has he rushed into the room and blurted out “who’s there?” than he gets shot (although he’s only on screen for a few seconds, the actor certainly milks it for everything he’s got).

For once, it’s Dee who’s ahead of the game and she has to keep plugging away at Brady to make him understand that something odd’s going on.  Eventually he takes her seriously, especially after Walker attempts to ingrate himself with Penny aboard the flight.  He wants to get close so he can obtain the microfilm, but Penny – an independent woman – isn’t impressed by his smooth approach.

The Mink Coat is enhanced by the appearance of Hazel Court.  She was renowned as a Scream Queen, thanks to her appearances in a string of classic horror films (The Curse of Frankenstein, The Raven, The Masque of the Red Death).  Penny’s a quirky character, which is evident right from the start – before Penny boards the Paris flight she produces a puppet who converses with the customs officer.

She’s an ace puppeteer (the doll with the dolls, as her advert puts it) who plies her trade in Paris at the interestingly named Blue Jeans Club.  The Blue Jeans Club is especially noteworthy for one of the worst examples of miming I’ve ever seen (13:32 in, the trumpeter is ridiculously unconvincing).

Penny’s act (with a striptease doll) is mildly risqué, but since this was the late 1950’s everything’s terribly restrained.  This is also evident after Penny returns to her dressing room to get changed – the camera coyly moves away as she begins to undress and Brady – lurking around in his invisible state in order to examine her coat – also makes a break for the door (he’s too much of a gentleman to hang around and take advantage).

Hazel Court gets to scream a couple of times (most impressively) whilst there’s a late, dialogue-free appearance from Joan Hickson as Madame Dupont.  Hickson’s expression as she spies Penny’s husband – the juggler Marcel le Magnifique (Murray Kash) – rushing to her rescue is memorable (possibly it was his tights which caught her attention).

Thanks to Hazel Court (and Penny’s puppets) this one is highly enjoyable.  I especially like the tag scene, which sees Penny introduce a puppet Invisible Man into her act!

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