Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Invisible Ray 1936: A photo review

I've been wanting to do another pictorial review and I went back and forth between a few films before settling on this one. It caught my eye because both Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff are in it. Two of my favorite villains in very different roles. Well, Boris is still evil with Bela playing the likable hero for a change.

Bela Lugosi as Dr. Felix Benet
Boris Karloff as Dr. Janos Rukh
Frances Drake as Diane Rukh
Frank Lawton as Ronald Drake
Violet Kimble Cooper as Mother Rukh
Walter Kingsford as Sir Francis Stevens
Beulah Bondi as Lady Arabella Stevens
Director: Lambert Hilyer

We get our first glimpse of an eery castle, high on a hill. I'm going out on a limb and guessing it's occupied by either Bela or Boris's character. 

OH! It's dark and creepy. Cue the bats and eery music.

We have the mistress of the house, a dog the size of a horse and a Mother In Law who's channeling Whistler's Mother 

I might be blind but I know that daughter in law of mine is skipping around and pilfering my jewels. She might be beautiful but she's up to no good.

Diane is expecting company. Here's hoping it's an electrician so we can see what happens to her mother in law when she's exposed to light.

D: My God you're pale and wax like! MIL: Your husband is an evil scientist so don't push it. 

MIL:  Oh, good! My face is still here. My son keeps trying to test out that invisible ray contraption of his and I get the sneaking suspicion that he's been directing it at me. Diane: I love your cross necklace. Is that real gold?

MIL: Please let our guests find something about Diane that's pleasing enough so they'll take her away from here.  Get the door Diane and try to act normal.

Diane floats to the front door in her gigantic cape. If I didn't know any better I would think she's expecting Dracula because those look like courtin clothes.

We get our first glimpse of the mad scientist who's channeling Little Lord Fauntleroy, if he were to have gone off the bend after stopping for a wild perm. Boris has never looked better!

Dr, J: Why are you wearing your 'courtin cape' Diane?  Stop playing around and answer the big heavy door. I've got an invention to sell.  Diane: Well, I hope this one works because I've still got a nasty rash and a scar from your hot roller invention. You can't heat rollers, hold me down and curl my hair then expect me to get over it!

Diane: I'll go answer the door and I'll escape this hell hole the first chance I get! Just as soon as I figure out the moat, which direction is down and how to ride a horse like the wind.

Everyone smile and try to look normal. We have guests with lots of bank roll and they look pretty gullible. Who wants finger sandwiches?

Yes, this is bizarro world where Bela and Boris meet, are dressed normal, and nobody is giving the 'scary brow' or summoning bats or the dead. If they start playing Chopin and dancing around merrily I'm out of here. 

We meet Ronald and Lady Arabella who have money and a need for power. 

Diane: He's so dreamy and normal. MIL: I'm blind not deaf! Could you go stand over there where I can't smell your desperation?

Everyone heads over to Dr. J's observatory to see the invention that will make them millions. (Obviously Diane has managed to conceal her burnt scalp and rash) I'm optimistic but then I've never trusted a man with a perm so this could go either way.

Just look at these dolts! They think I have a perm but it's my hot roller invention. Who's the smart one here? Now lets get ready to kick some rays.

Dr. K: Do you think we can trust this guy?  Sir Frances: He seems trustworthy, it's his family I'm worried about. My God his mother in law is pale and that gigantic dog, I think it was once a cat. Something isn't right here and rest assured I'll never get to the bottom of it.

Ronnie: You're beautiful and I love your 8 foot long cape.  If you just had some jewelry you would be perfect!  Diane: I hear you're on your way to an expedition in Africa. Any chance I can tag along until I get past that moat and down the hill?  

Either Dr. J is experimenting with hot wax treatments or we're getting ready for some fun.  

I've seen this setup in Boris's films before and someone usually ends up dead or missing.

Ronnie: I don't feel all that comfortable behind plexi-glass when your husband is wearing an iron suit.  Diane: Just sit still and don't look directly at anything bright or retina scorching.  Lady Arabella: Will we see any animals during this show? 

This looks promising!

The gallery:  Ooooh, Awwww!

Bela: Pffft! I'm not that impressed! I can get more excitement out of squeezing my hands which summons zombies.  Ronnie: I wonder if Diane considers this a first date? Maybe they won't notice if I sneak out and lower the moat.  Lady A: If I squint I can actually see a zebra.

Brace yourselves!

Sir Francis: Did he just say "Race to the bells?"  Dr. B :  I just don't see a zebra! I think your wife is a bit batty"

The Invisible Ray has been switched into 2nd gear. We have meteors hurdling 

When Bela has a scared face it might be time to duck and cover.

They look terrified. My job is done here. 

Dr. J: That was amazing!  Diane: Dear, everyone is terrified and quite confused so why don't you turn this party around by telling them about all of the amazingly 'good' things the ray will do.  Dr. J: But I'm up to no good. Diane: Pretend dearest! I want to get out of here and you're making that difficult.  

Dr. B: We're headed to Africa to treat the sick and I would like to take you along with us. I think we can use your ray to do good things.  Dr. J.:  You do gooders must be real idiots! I mean, of course I would love to lend myself to a good cause. Excuse me while I pack up my expedition clothes and lay down the rules to my adoring wife.

These twits have no idea what my son's capable of! He might look adorable under those curls but bad things WILL happen.

Dr. J: Mother, you're talking out loud again,  just sit here and look pretty as a picture.

Just in case I have you all royally confused, here's a map. We're really saying goodbye to the dark castle and heading to Africa so get ready.

We meet up with the 'do gooders' in Africa. Of course Dr. J. has gone missing and taken his invisible ray gadget with him. I'm sure he's just making poverty and mosquitoes dissapear.

Dr. B is healing sick children which is a new direction for Bela.   I'm a bit disappointed that the studio couldn't come up with a great film for Bela and Boris but I'll take what I can get.

Diane, not used to the African heat is lethargic and sweaty. Not Lupe Velez in Kongo sweaty but she's wilting!

She spots Ronnie and perks right up! Way to be as transparent as an invisible ray Diane!

Lady A: You're playing with fire Ronald. That Dr. J. is evil and then there's the fact that he has his hands on an invisible ray.  Ronnie: Oh, I don't think he would actually use it on anyone, I mean if he did wouldn't he have used it on his mother?  I think she's pretending to be blind just so she can roam about and sidle up on people.

The pith helmet worked for Bogart and then there's the fact that I haven't wandered off to stab radioactive rocks with sharp objects so perhaps I have a shot with Diane. 

Lady Arabella: I never knew Philanthropy would be so hard and exhausting! Sir Francis: Yes, these accommodation aren't exactly five star but think of the invites we'll be getting if we make it out of here alive and not scarred by a horrible disease.

Lady A: You owe me lots of jewelry and a spa vacation.  I'm really scared that the crazy scientist is creeping around with that invisible ray, waiting to take us all out.

Sir Francis: If you can wait about 10 minutes, I've got your spa treatment right here. These leeches really do work miracles on blisters and tired feet.

We check in with Boris who's on his own expedition.  

Your first glance at the natives upon seeing the radioactive rocks! Somebody's scared S#^^#less!

Somebody came prepared to capture the radium. I bet this is where Ghost Busters got their inspiration. 

Radium is boiling up out of the hillside. Boris is going to need a bigger box and some common sense.

Isn't it beautiful? It smells like power.

Quick! Take this note to my wife. I want to let her know that I control all things good and evil before she leaves me for that loser Ronnie. 

Back at camp Ronnie awkwardly flirts with Diane over non radioactive pork.

Diane: I would love to have an affair with you but this heat has left me tired and not so fresh.  Can we just play footsies under the table through dessert then collapse in a hammock somewhere until the heat takes us?  

Diane get's word that curly top has found radioactive rock. She looks thrilled and who wouldn't be!

Ronnie: Wait, you're leaving to join your husband?  I was hoping you would stay here with me while I pay someone to invent electricity and ceiling fans. 

Our fashionable scientist is being hoisted out over the radioactive rocks. 

The hoisters look confused but dedicated.

Marie Curie thanks you for taking one for the team crazy bones.

YAY for giving crazy people chemistry sets at an early age!

It's time to test the ray out now that Dr. J. has contained a few grams of radium.

Boris looks pretty handsome here but I have a feeling it won't last. Two cheers for hot rollers and humidity!

We meet our first victim. Oh, well Africa has too many rocky cliffs anyway. Oh, wait.

I think we picked the wrong scientist to help out!  He said he was going to rid Africa of mosquitoes.

OH NO! You should have focused more on leaks in your suit instead of looking good while chipping away at radium filled rock buddy. 

He's obviously got some kinks to work out if he plans to sneak around while invisible.

Diane has arrived and she's ready to greet her husband.

She thinks hubby is giving her the cold shoulder since he won't come out of the tent.

Worst display of invisible I've ever seen on film!  The only thing worse would be seeing this after colorization.

Our glowing scientist is gathering his stuff and sneaking out the back.  I wonder if he'll attract bugs like one of those bug zappers?

Diane is left distraught and confused. She left Wawnnie who was attempting to get to 1st base for a crazy man who made her travel all night through dirt and heat.  So many choices, so little time.

We catch up with Bela who's still doing good things. Nothing to see here.

Dr. J. shows up at base camp looking like Frankenstein's welder.

He explains everything to Dr. Benet who's thrilled! (Okay, he looks concerned but I know he's secretly thrilled that this film might actually take a weird turn)

Boris turns out the lights so we get the full affect of the radium poisoning.  Was the audience of 1936 shocked, scared, laughing? Just pitiful!

Bela puts on his best horrified face and says "You're poisoned!"  He's also stupid but I won't dwell.

Bela: Perhaps metal clothing didn't protect you.  Boris: Well duct tape hasn't been invented yet so I didn't get a good seal. 

Dr. B. starts testing radium to get a cure. It's safe to say he's the smart one. 

He gives Dr. J. a quick shot which cures that glowy in the dark problem temporarily. I'm in awe at the things that can be done in tents with a few test tubes and some ingenuity.

You must use the counteractive each day at the same time.  (I don't think Boris is wearing a watch)

Diane, still clueless as to why her husband turned up the crazy has given in to love.  Wawwnnie's thrilled and pleased that pith helmets DO get the girls!

Sir Francis has shown up at Dr. J's camp to see what he's been up to and find out if his money has been put to good use. The expedition is over so they're off to Paris to re-cooperate and have fancy party's.

Feeling duped, Boris has decided to harness the power to destroy.  

Bela arrives to inform Dr. J. that they stole his sample to take to Paris. You just can't trust sweaty philanthropists who throw their money at unbalanced strangers.

Oh, and your wife went to Paris with Ronnie and she's getting a divorce.  But don't aim your ray at the messenger.  

Somehow Dr. J. has made it back to his castle on the hill where he's been busy working out the kinks of his invisible ray.

You can't tell by looking at her but mama is pleased! She got rid of Diane and she's all ready to get zapped into a million pieces if it makes her son happy. (Dysfunctional families really do belong in isolated castles with tricky moats)

Mama can see! Christ on a cracker, wait until she sees Boris's hair.

MIL: Son, now that I can see you can leave me here all alone while you go off to Paris and get your radium back. Dr. J. But what about Diane?  MIL: Some things are better left alone dear.

We check in with Dr. B. at his Paris clinic which can best be described as a Little Pocket of Miracles and Hope!  Oh, it's a fabulous place, filled with tears, desperate families, a steady stream of funds and hourly miracles.   He's working the heck out of that stolen radium and as far as I can tell nobody is glowing in the dark.

Dr. J. shows up to ruin everyone's day.  It's nice that he bought a new suit to soften the blow.

He is acting like he's proud of the good things his stolen radium has done.  Of course Bela has had the evil sucked out of him by casting so he acts relieved.

We get a quick tour of the clinic and a 'well done' here and there

Before Dr. J. disappears into the night to seek his revenge.

His first stop is a pub to drug a bum.

We check in with Diane who looks refreshed and happy.

until Lady Arabella shows her the morning paper.

Apparently her troubled husband wound up in Paris where he's been found mutilated.

Frances Drake trying to squeeze out a tear.

But there's no time for crying or mourning the dead! We have a wedding to get to.

Oh, the mutilated corpse has never looked better! Wait a second, where's that drunk bum from the pub?

There's no time to throw rice or whatever they toss at weddings in Paris. Dr. Not So Scorched has a room to rent.

It has a gorgeous view. I bet that costs extra.

Everyone is dressed up in their wedding finest as they celebrate the happy couple who can now live without guilt since the evil husband is dead.

Oh, not so fast with the toasts! Sir Francis has been found dead in his bed.  I think we can assume he was scared to death.

There never is a good way to break this but Dr. B. wants to experiment before his eyes glaze over.

I'm getting flashbacks of "White Zombie". Get serious here, this is pathetic!

We've got one dead body and a  missing statue.

One guess who's behind the latest developments. Nothing's glowing so I assume he's still taking his antidote.

Lady Arabella is next! Philanthropy can be dangerous kids so pick your causes wisely.

Diane is distraught when Bela informs her that he suspects Boris is still alive and behind this. Yes, you're back to being an adulteress.

Boris is running around leaving his fat fingerprints all over the place so I guess he's gone back to "semi invisible on a shoe string budget mode" 

Diane is afraid as she should be but wait until she finds out her mother in law can now see. She had better start hiding the jewelry she pillaged.

Dr. J. has everyone outraged now that he's blowing up sacred statues.  They should be thankful he didn't request a room across the street from the Pantheon.

Dr. B. meets with other scientists to set a trap for Dr. J.

Of course Dr. J. is one step ahead of everyone as he schemes to get an invite to their secret meeting.

Everyone has arrived with police at the ready outside.

The lights go out and Dr. J. appears. I suspect we aren't supposed to actually see him but just the raincoat and hat floating around.  I'm starting to be thankful that this film doesn't have bats because you know we would actually see the wires they would hang from.

Wawnnnnie is all pleased with himself that he's protecting Diane from her maniacal dead, but not dead, glowing, but not actually invisible husband.

Oh, I knew we wouldn't get a party without mama.  She went and got her sight back so now she's a world traveler.  I wonder how long it took HER to figure out the moat?

Dr. J. has somehow made it to the stairs without being detected. No sign of Wawnnie.

Hellllloooo dearest!

You can hear me but you can't see me.  Bwaahhhaaaa!

Uhmm, yes I can see you.  I mean I'm so very frightened and sorry that I left you for Wawwnnie.

Not wanting to ruin her party attire with a fat, radioactive hand print, Diane manages to scream.

The brain trust downstairs has decided to start looking for Dr Benet.

He's down in the basement glowing!

Mama is roaming around looking like Casper and she didn't even get poisoned.

She's talked her son into doing the right thing. The prospect of Diane moving back in has gotten to her finally so she is all for her son taking his own life so she can run off to pick grapes in the French countryside.  (Everyone wins here)

She tries her best to show emotion and love.

As Dr. J. starts smoking and running towards a window.

He throws his radioactive body into the Paris water supply! Oh dear, I hope that doesn't mean there will be a sequel.

Ronnie shows back up after it's safe. Well at least he has money Diane.  I'm sure you'll both be very happy.

Well that's that! This film was just awful. The worst I've seen from Bela and Boris but I'm dying to hear what everyone else thought of it.

Thanks for stopping by and please return for more of my Halloween month madness.  And remember to use your chemistry sets for good and not evil kids.


  1. Thanks a lot, Page! I snorted Coke through my nose at the hot rollers, and that hurts! (That's Coca-Cola all you cynics!) I had fun seeing this movie because it was so bad, but it was more fun with your hilarious take on it. I loved the picture of Boris and Bela face to face. Bela looked pretty darn good, but kind of like a Park Avenue psychiatrist -- Boris looked like a French painter from the Left Bank. Mama was priceless. Your caption for wilted Diane comparing her to sweaty Lupe was great. Then the bug zapper -- by then I knew not to try to drink anything.

    Just a few of my favorites. I love these snarks, and this is one of your best!

  2. Becks,
    First off! Thanks so much for clearing up the coke reference. We don't need that rumor going around the Blogasphere. Ha Ha You silly goose.

    I'm glad you agree that this film was bad because I didn't want to think it was just me hating on a film that was actually good. I'm still trying to live down the musicals thing. I have to say there were times where I didn't know if I would even finish watching it especially when there's a wall right across the room that I could go bang my head against. Two great actors who were given some pretty shaky scripts at times. I would expect this in the 40's but not in the mid 30's when their careers were still going strong.

    I knew if anyone would get the Lupe/Kong reference you would! : )

    Thanks for being supportive of my photo reviews even when the film choice is a real stink bomb.

  3. Page, your laugh-out-loud funny, wackadoodle quips and asides have the power to make the biggest stink bomb into comedy gold! Vinnie can always tell when I'm reading one of your pictorials because he can hear me laughing clear to the other end of our long apartment, so you know you've done a great job! :-)

    Everything was hilarious, but your take on THE INVISIBLE RAY got even funnier as it went along. With that curly hair, Boris Karloff looked kinda like Omar Sharif gone horribly wrong! I also loved that positively Dali-esque screen-grab which I've come to think of as "The Boris Eyeball". I'm still chuckling over the lovely Frances Drake's "Dracula courtin' clothes," "Dr. Not So Scorched," "The brain trust downstairs...." and of course, "Wawwwwnnnnie!" Page, I'd definitely count this loopy take on THE INVISIBLE RAY among your very best pictorial reviews!

  4. Dorian,
    I'm still making you laugh and scare the neighbors so I'm doing okay! : )
    I've been waiting ages to be able to use Waawnnie in a review! Ha Ha
    This film was a challenge but I'm on to look for my next victim.

    Thanks so much for your very kind comments my friend.

  5. Hey Page, I loved the treatment, but at the same time I also really liked this movie. Yeah, it's a bit over the top and out there, and maybe I'm just mesmerized by Frances Drake, or perhaps that's glowing Boris, but I found The Invisible Ray wild and weird, especially for a mid-1930's flick. It was also nice to see Bela as a decent guy, even if that makes him into a boor. Hilarious captions as always, you gave us a fun ride! (That was a lot of screen caps!)

  6. Cliff,
    I understand what you mean in regards to Bela playing it straight. But for the sake of snark I had to poke fun at him a bit. : ) I enjoyed him a lot in The Gorilla even though he was playing it straight.

    We've talked about Frances Drake before so you know how I feel about her beauty. She had a look that stood out among so many cookie cutter blondes in the 30's.
    I'm glad you got a few laughs out of this one. I think it's time to go back to that post where I requested review ideas and start reviewing some of the ones that you and others listed. I'm looking forward to it.

    Thanks for being a loyal reader of my snark Cliff. You're the best.

  7. This is the best way to view one of these movies - with a wink and a smile. Much fun!

  8. FlickChick,

    This film was a real mess so thanks for being a loyal reader and getting through this one. :)