H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Man in Power

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The small Middle Eastern country of Barat is in crisis.  The hard-line Army leader, General Shafari (André Morell), wants to see them break their agreements with the West and then play East and West off against each other.  When the moderate King disagrees, Shafari has him brutally murdered.  No doubt Shafari hopes that the new ruler, Prince Jonetta (Gary Raymond), will be more pliable – but Jonetta (known as Johnny) has a powerful ally – Peter Brady, the Invisible Man ….

We’re once again heading off to a fictitious ITC Middle Eastern state, so expect to see British actors browned up and lashings of stock footage.   But our stay in Barat is made very bearable by the presence of André Morell .  Morell was one of those actors who could have read the phone book and made it worthwhile (although fortunately his character here is slightly more interesting than that).

Only just though.  Shafari is never developed in any great detail – we do learn that Barat is a poor country and no doubt Shafari hopes that an alliance with the East would be more profitable for them (or more likely, just him) but beyond that he’s a nebulous figure.  This doesn’t really matter though, since Morell invests every line of dialogue he’s given with gravitas and meaning and even when Shafari has nothing to say, Morell still captures the eye by glowering memorably in the background.  Without him, this one would probably be much more of a struggle.

Gary Raymond is perfect as Johnny – he’s boyish, open and honest (making it perfectly plain that he’s keen to put the interests of his people first and would turn out to be an enlightened and progressive leader if he’s given the chance) whilst Nadja Regin as Johnny’s sister, Princess Taima, is on hand to provide a touch of glamour, moral support for her brother and to function as this week’s damsel in distress.  When Taima is kidnapped by Shafari, he no doubt hopes it will serve as the lever to force Johnny not to accept the throne – but luckily Brady’s on hand to dish out some invisible fisticuffs and so he calmly rescues her.

If Regin seems familiar, then it’s probably due to her several small, but eye-catching, appearances in the early James Bond films.  The most memorable one came in the pre-credits sequence for Goldfinger where she acted as the decoy for Alf Joint’s swarthy assassin.  “Shocking”.

It’s something of a treat to see two Professor Quatermasses sharing the screen.  Not only Morell (who played the Professor in the television version of Quatermass and the Pit) but also Andrew Keir (who would later play the Prof in the Hammer film adaptation of Pit).  Keir’s role of Hassan, a supporter of Johnny, isn’t terribly interesting but it’s nice to see him nonetheless.

As so often, we’re left with a rather pat ending.  After Shafari is captured and led away we’re led to believe that the crisis is now over.  But this supposes he was the only bad apple and that the rest of the army will now be loyal to Johnny.  Real-life would suggest he’s got troubles ahead, but Man in Power elects to close on an optimistic note.

Although some of the stock footage really stands out (it’s so scratchy that it doesn’t convince for a minute) the presence of André Morell adds more than a touch of class to the episode. Another very enjoyable twenty five minutes.

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