Although H.G. Wells’ name was prominent in the titles, apart from the presence of an invisible man, this 1958/59 series bore little resemblance to Wells’ original novel. Wells’ scientist was a man tipped over into madness after his experiments with invisibility proved to be unreversable – with the result that he ended up as a danger both to himself and those around him.
The television Invisible Man, Peter Brady (normally voiced by Tim Tuner, here it’s Robert Beatty), had a much more even temperament. He adjusts to his new life remarkably well, with no mental anguish at all and (unlike in the story which eventually aired first) seems to be unconcerned that he’s now permanently invisible.
With only twenty five minutes to play with, this pilot doesn’t have time to hang about – within the opening few minutes we witness Brady’s experiment going somewhat awry and he quickly heads home to speak to his sister Jane Wilson (Lisa Daniely) and her daughter Sally (Deborah Watling).
They both take the news of Brady’s invisibility very calmly, even young Sally – after he unwraps his bandages to reveal there’s nothing there, it only elicits mild curiosity. One of the joys of the series is the various different ways in which Brady’s invisible state was realised. There’s something rather appealing about the sight of him sitting at the typewriter (apart from his clothes there’s nothing there, meaning that it appears to be a headless body!)
You’d have assumed that Brady’s invisibility would have been kept secret, but no – it’s all over the papers and a pack of hungry reporters (along with an ATV television van) pull up outside the house, anxious for a scoop.
Sally has been abducted by Crowther (Willoughby Goddard). Goddard oozes villainy as he persaudes the reluctant Brady that he should put his invisible skills to good use – robbing banks, say. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense for Brady to be wearing clothes when he robs the bank – surely being invisible would have been more sensible? But the camera has to follow something, and a bobbing suit of clothes is certainly an arresting image.
This is moderately diverting stuff, although the bank-raid subplot never really clicks, possibly because the crooks aren’t depicted as being very formidable. It was obviously felt that they could do better, so another origin story was crafted …..