Friday, May 22, 2020
The Body Disappears (1941)
5:42, 8:43, 16:05, 21:44, 35:30, 41, 42:40, 51:55 It's funny, as this movie started out I thought it'd be a murder-mystery! xD
Peter DeHaven III is a young college darling, loved and envied by all, and ready to get married. During his bachelor party, he pranks his friends one too many times and they decide to get revenge by laying the drunk and unconscious Peter out in a morgue. Elsewhere, eccentric scientist Professor Shotesbury has perfected a serum to bring the dead back to life, and he needs a test subject since his assistant Willie 'selfishly' doesn't want to take part. They find Peter's 'body' and bring it back to the house, injecting the unsuspecting guy. Upon waking up he has a lot to take in, but all is eclipsed when he finds he's turning invisible...
The Body Disappears is a real gem! There have been many tales of invisibility through the years, from many different countries too. It's a concept ripe for exploration, in many different genres too, be it horror, espionage, or comedy, in today's case.
The Body Disappears starts off in a simple but perfect way. We're introduced to the lead and how he acts, and we see right away what this causes, ultimately setting the plot into motion. I like when something simple can say a lot, or = a lot. There's also a framing story from the perspective of a courtroom trial, which is amusing and effective, tying in very well at the end.
In this breezy 72 minute runtime there's always plenty going on. Not so much that you get lost, but also much to keep you entertained, from the daffy inventor's repeated attempts to perfect his formula, Peter seeing what his fiancee gets up to when he's not around, as well as his budding romance with Shotesbury's's daughter Joan.
Something I love here is that the story uses the concept of invisibility to its full advantage. Rather than just use it for (which would have been fine, of course), we see way more, from the shenanigans with the monkey, to the other two subjects in the climax. The movie even gets surprisingly sexy and salacious for a 1940s production!
The effects in The Body Disappears are really good! The movie never cheats when it comes to showing invisibility, often going out of its way to pose its hero in various = situations. The most daring of these are the driving segments (yep, there's more than one!), and they're pretty spectacular! I've no idea how they did them, and it's a miracle the cars used didn't crash into a million pieces. The effects aren't 100% perfect. There are a few little moments here and there where you can sliiiightly see the seams, if you look carefully, but there's nothing obvious, and nothing worth complaining about.
The characters here are a nice and varied bunch. Peter is a pretty regular lead, and his sense of humour from the beginning kinda falls by the wayside (though for completely understandable reasons, but he's fine, with nothing wrong with him as a protagonist. Professor Shotesbury is a loveable eccentric, always with one crazy idea in his head or another. He always amuses and never comes across as obnoxious or frustrating. Plus, you can't deny the man gets results! Little is made of the fact that he can successfully resurrect the dead, or that this serum also makes the living invisible, but one can only imagine what he'd do for the medical world!
His daughter Joan meanwhile is much more levelheaded, young and romantic, but also motherly as she's constantly trying to deal with her father's blunders or eccentricity, trying unsuccessfully to get him onto less risky ventures. Lab assistant Willie is the comic relief who's often worried about everything (for good reason!). It's great watching him get roped into all these kooky situations, trying to make the best of it.
Peter's fiancee Christine turns out to be a scheming broad, though not a hugely diabolical one. Peter discovers that she only cared about his money, but that's about it, with her not contributing an important part to the plot. This is fine, as not every shifty fiancee has gotta be = all the time. As she is, Christine is = she's just is a
Peter's friends are a funny bunch, and their scheming is what sets the entire plot into motion, but after the first half they're never seen again. A shame. They're not necessary =, and the story isn't incomplete without them, but it still woulda been nice to see them get a bit of comeuppance at the end.
The acting here is great fun. Jeffrey Lynn and Jane Wyman are nice leads, and always =. Edward Everett Horton is delightful as the slightly mad scientist, clearly having a lot of fun and delivering each line with such liveliness. He even seems to be ad-libbing here and there, effectively if he was. Willie Best has perhaps the largest role I've seen him in, and he does his usual schtick, to amusing effect. The rest of the performers all do fine, even if some do blend together a little.
Special praise has to be given to Horton and Best because they're the ones who have to act alongside invisible people the most, and they do a wonderful job! Since we naturally can't see an invisible man, those scenes rely entirely on the visible actor with them, and whether they're able to sell the =. These two not only do well, they do it brilliantly! Horton focuses more on =, while Best does the same, all while delivering the best facial expressions in the movie! He visually carries the production in many scenes, and come the climax he's the only one who is visible!
The Body Disappears is great fun. As a movie about invisibility, it's a bullseye, as a comedy it's often hilarious, and as an adventure it always =, and it even does great in terms of race. I definitely recommend checking it out...