H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Pilot

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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 (since it appears to be a headless body tapping away!)

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 …..

H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Secret Experiment

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Although Secret Experiment retains some story elements from the pilot, it’s still a significant retooling which results in a much stronger episode.

Here, both Brady’s employers and the government show immediate interest in the possibilities and dangers of an invisible man (the pilot never touched upon this). In the aftermath of the experiment, Brady finds himself held prisoner as both parties debate the implications. The government are keen to keep the news under wraps, so no newspaper headlines or television vans are seen.

There’s no suggestion that they want to use Brady’s invisibility as a weapon, it’s simply that they don’t want others to do so. Brady manages to escape quite easily (he is invisible after all) but he’s now a hunted man. Later he sums his situation up. “I’ve become an official secret. I’m to be filed away, locked and guarded.”

As in the pilot, Brady calls his sister (renamed Diane) to warn her that he’s not the man he was, although this story element now makes more sense (here the phone box is some distance from their home, in the pilot it was just a few paces away. Why bother to phone when you’ve virtually arrived home?)

Brady doesn’t want to remain invisible and with his employers appearing to be somewhat unfriendly there’s only one man he can turn to – Dr John Crompton (Michael Goodliffe). Crompton, like Brady, has been working in the field of invisibility, but he turns out to be a treacherous ally.

Our initial sighting of Crompton provides us with several signifiers which appear to suggest that he’s a decent type – he lives in a comfortable cottage, smokes a pipe, etc – but for him invisibility is simply a tool for personal gain (no door, not even the Bank of England would be closed). Brady isn’t interested in exploiting his new-found skills though, he’d trade them in a heartbeat for a normal life again. The two scientists are therefore diametrically opposed – Brady is altruistic, Crompton avaristic.

Goodliffe always had a considerable screen presence and he’s his usual reliable self here, even managing the tricky feat of convincing us he’s being attacked by an invisible man! As we’ll see again and again, the twenty-five minute format is a restrictive one – most especially it limits character development. So the series needed strong actors, like Goodliffe, who could make an immediate impression.

By focusing on Brady’s plight, with no bank robbery diversions, Secret Experiment turns out to be a much more satisfying introduction to the series than the unaired pilot was. It’s just a pity that the subplot of Brady being an outsider, on the run from the authorities, was dispensed with so quickly.

H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Crisis in the Desert

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Brady is approached by Colonel Warren (Douglas Wilmer) of Military Intelligence as one of their top agents, Jack Howard (Howard Pays), is being held prisoner in a Middle Eastern country.  Howard, badly injured after an abortive escape attempt, is being guarded in a high security hospital and only the Invisible Man – along with the alluring local assistance of Yolanda (Adrienne Corri) – has any chance of freeing him ….

Fictitious Middle Eastern countries, forever teetering on the edge of instability, would be a staple of ITC adventure series during the next decade or so and Crisis in the Desert is an early example of this genre.  Naturally, foreign location filming was beyond the series’ budget, so instead we have a reasonably dressed backlot (which doesn’t look too shabby, it must be said).

Ethnic actors would also tend to be in short supply whenever an ITC series headed abroad, so it’s no surprise to see British performers in all the main roles.  The eagle-eyed will spot Derren Nesbitt in the background, but the bulk of the action is divided between Corri as Yolanda, Eric Pohlmann as Yolanda’s associate Hassan and Martin Benson as the villainous Colonel Hassan.

These three, along with Wilmer, make Crisis in the Desert a very enjoyable watch.  Wilmer oozes charm as he persuades Brady (rather easily it must be said) to undertake a dangerous mission in the Middle East.  It’s interesting that Warren reacts with horror when Brady tells him he thinks he’s close to reversing his invisibility – it’s obvious that Warren needs an invisible man to rescue Howard, but it’s odd that he doesn’t seem to have considered the possibility that once Brady has perfected his formula it could be duplicated.  Creating a whole army of invisible agents would have obvious benefits.  Given this, it seems a little foolhardy to risk Brady’s life (and the knowledge that only he has) on this jaunt abroad.

Corri had already racked up an impressive list of credits before appearing here as the glamourous freedom-fighter Yolanda.  She looks very nice in a nurse’s uniform as well.  Pohlmann has less to do, only react to Yolanda, but he’s effective enough.  Benson is great fun as the sadistic Hassan – he opens the story by slapping Howard about and later suggests to an unfortunate surgeon (played by Derek Sydney) that he performs a little brain operation on Howard in order to make him more pliant.

Several actors black up – most notably Peter Sallis as Nesib, the ambulance driver.  This probably isn’t a performance that’s going to be at the top of his cv, but for a working actor of this era playing the most unlikely nationalities was an occupational hazard (Sallis would later appear as an equally unconvincing Chinaman in an episode of Sergeant Cork).

The main problem with Crisis in the Desert is that there’s no real need for Brady to be there at all, as although he sneaks around the hospital in his invisible state, Nurse Yolanda is in plain sight all the time.  As we’ll see, this proves to be something of a problem for the writers – often the gimmick of having an invisible man tends to be sidelined as Brady is shoehorned into plots that don’t require his invisibility skills to be utilised.

H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Behind the Mask

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Brady is abducted and brought before Raphael Constantine (Dennis Price).  Constantine is a millionaire who’s surrounded himself with beautiful objects, but he tells Brady that this doesn’t negate the pain he feels (Constantine is horribly disfigured and has to wear a mask at all times).  He wishes to become invisible so that he no longer has to look at his ravaged visage and since he knows that Brady needs a human guinea pig for his continuing experiments it seems like the obvious solution.  Brady is initially unsure but is won around by Constantine’s arguments, although there’s more to this man than meets the eye ….

Behind the Mask opens with the Invisible Man having a shave, being watched by Sally.  This is a nicely mounted effects scene, although since they discuss how Brady’s experiments are floundering for the lack of a human subject, it quickly becomes obvious that it was no casual chat.

Price was a heavyweight guest star.  Probably best known for the classic 1949 Ealing film Kind Hearts and Coronets, his film career was still buoyant at the time.  He’d already appeared alongside Peter Sellers in The Naked Truth (1957) and would shortly do so again in another memorable British film, I’m All Right Jack (1959).  With his face partially hidden, Price had to fall back on his voice to convey Constantine’s full character, but since he had such a deep and expressive vocal range this was no problem.

Constantine’s monologue, where he pleads for Brady’s help, is one of the highlights of the episode, thanks to Price’s performance.  “To think that no-one, not even I, would ever again have to look on this mangled nightmare of a face. There’s nothing in the world I wouldn’t give for such a favour.”

If the script by Leslie Arliss and Stanley Mann has a flaw then it’s the early reveal that Constantine hasn’t been exactly honest with Brady.  He wants to become invisible so that he can kill Domecq – a visiting foreign dignitary whom he blames for his disfigurement.  A pity this revelation wasn’t held back until later in the story.

Constantine has surrounded himself with fellow dissidents, such as Max (Edwin Richfield), all of whom share the same hatred for Domecq – although Max is wise enough to see that Constantine’s burning hatred might endanger them all.  Oddly, Max sports a heavy foreign accent whilst Constantine’s tones are cut-glass English.  If they both come from the same country then how is this so?

The question of Brady’s public profile also seems a little inconsistent.  In the previous story Colonel Warren referred to him as a government secret, but here it appears that his story is in the public domain – Brady himself admits to Constantine that his bandages are a bit of a giveaway.

With a lovely guest turn by Price and the always dependable Richfield offering decent support, Behind the Mask is an above average effort.  And for once, Brady’s invisibility doesn’t help him – when he tackles the baddies he’s knocked out rather easily, allowing Max to take his clothes and bandages in order to masquerade as him.  A wonder nobody thought to do this before, since it allows Max entry into the research base without the guards batting an eyelid!

H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – The Locked Room

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Brady finds himself drawn to the case of Professor Tanya Brofuri (Zena Marshall), a dissident scientist from a foreign, unfriendly power. Partly this is because he’s angry about the way her freedom has been curtailed, but also because he believes she might be able to help him become visible again …..

The opening of The Locked Room is interesting.  For the first time there’s a voice-over as Brady sets the scene about Tanya (after speaking out at a public meeting she’s been frog-marched back to her embassy).  It’s an obvious way to save time which, given the twenty-five minute format, is quite important and it also helps to thrust us straight into the story with very little preamble.

It’s never explicitly stated, but there’s a strong streak of self-interest in Brady’s actions.  Yes, he’s displeased that a fellow scientist should be treated so badly by her country, but he also wants her help with his continuing experiments to reverse his invisible state.  Had the story been longer then possibly this is a theme that could have been developed, unfortunately the brief duration of the story didn’t really make it possible.

Another undeveloped angle concerns Porter (Noel Coleman), the man from the ministry.  He expressly forbids Brady from rescuing Tanya, but after he does so anyway, there’s no comeback.  Instead,  Porter was happy to arrange American citizenship for her.

Rupert Davies casts an imposing shadow as Dushkin.  It’s never explicitly stated that Dushkin and Tanya are Russian but the implication is obvious enough.  He’s another lightly sketched character, but his threats (first to dispatch Tanya to a sanatorium for an extended stay and then later to send her home in a coffin) are chilling enough.

With Brady being invisible for most of the episode, Zena Marshall has to work hard to convince us that there’s a growing attachment between Tanya and Brady.  But this she does very well and Marshall (probably best known as the treacherous Miss Taro from the first James Bond film, Doctor No) is a pleasing presence throughout the story.

The “twist” is one that the audience should have seen a mile off – everything seems settled, Tanya is due to head off to the airport and Brady, Diane and Sally wave her goodbye as a car comes to pick her up (the invisible Brady represented by a floating hanky!).  But wait!  The car wasn’t sent by the Americans, it came from those pesky Russians (or whoever) and they aren’t kindly disposed towards Tanya.

Brady saves the day of course – the sight of an apparently riderless motorcycle and sidecar is an arresting image – and whilst The Locked Room lacks a great deal of depth, Davies and Marshall help to make it an amiable watch.

H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Picnic with Death

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Following a car accident, Brady’s invisible state becomes public knowledge.  Whilst he struggles to adjust to his new-found fame, one of Sally’s friends, Linda Norton (Margaret Court) approaches him with a strange story.  She claims that her stepfather and his sister are planning to kill her mother ….

Picnic with Death rehashes some material from the unaired pilot concerning Brady’s emergence as a public figure.  The reason for not keeping his invisible identity secret any longer is obvious in one way, since it widens the range of stories he can become involved in (as here, with Linda turning to him for help).

John Norton (Derek Bond) and his sister Carol (Faith Brook) are deeply attached to their family home, Foxgrange.  John’s wife, Janet (Maureen Prior), is a woman of independent means and John is hopeful that she’ll continue to pour more money into Foxgrange’s upkeep.  She refuses, as she can see there would never be enough money available to maintain it for any length of time.  Her refusal – and by this time we’re about half-way through the story – does seem to bear out Linda’s story, as John exits in a threatening manner.  But with Brady dismissing the tale as little more than adolescent jealousy, it falls to Sally to turn detective.

Margaret Court is remarkably squeaky and rather highly-strung as Linda, so it’s possibly not surprising that Brady dismisses her out of hand.  Sally’s decision to lurk around the bushes – where she overhears John and Carol plotting to murder Janet – is an unexpected turn of events but it’s nice that Deborah Watling is a little more involved in the story for once.

Derek Bond, the second Hunter (from Callan) to appear in the series, following Michael Goodliffe in Secret Experiment, glowers in a menacing fashion and helps to raise the story a little.  Part of the problem is that it’s hard not to believe that Brady will save the day once he’s been convinced that Linda and Sally know what they’re talking about.  Still, there’s an amusing cameo from Hammer stalwart Michael Ripper (“Eh Harry, that invisible man. He’s here!”) to sweeten the pill a little.

Of course, Brady turns up in the nick of time to prevent Janet from plummeting to her death over a cliff in a runaway car whilst Diane finds a gun from somewhere to keep John and Carol covered (this is odd, since Diane has never seemed the gun-toting type before).  A slightly messy tale then, but as with all the stories it clips along at a decent pace.

H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Play to Kill

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A successful actress called Barbara Crane (Helen Cherry) accidentally knocks down and kills a tramp.  Another car, driven by a man known only as the Colonel (Colin Gordon), was passing at the time and he suggests that in order to prevent a scandal, they get rid him – after all, there’s a cliff nearby and it’s easy enough for him to tip the body over.  But if Barbara thinks the nightmare is over then she has to think again as shortly afterwards she starts to receive threatening blackmail calls ….

Play to Kill is quite a neat story, although it’s one where Brady is very much surplus to requirements.  When Barbara receives the blackmail messages we don’t see the face of the man making the call, so it’s easy to incorrectly assume that it’s the Colonel.  As so often throughout the series, the quality of the guest cast is a source of joy and the very recognisable Colin Gordon is no exception to this rule. That ITC were targeting American sales seems obvious when the Colonel refers to the dead man as a hobo. It’s such an odd word for an Englishman to use (although possibly it was intended as a signifier that the urbane Colonel wasn’t all he appeared to be).

And in a story with a strong theatrical atmosphere it shouldn’t come as any surprise to learn that not everything we’ve seen so far should be taken at face value. When the Colonel – who admits to Barbara that he is involved in the blackmail plot – is killed, it spins the story off in another direction. If the Colonel wasn’t the blackmailer (he was just a hired hand) who is?

Suspicion falls on the theatre where Barbara is rehearsing her new play. There’s quite a few possibilities such as the harassed director Simon Wallace (Garry Thorne) as well as Barbara’s disgruntled co-star Tom (Hugh Latimer), infuriated that she keeps fluffing her lines. Then there’s the photographer to the stars, Arthur Arthurson (Vincent Holman) or maybe it could be the charming Walter Manton (Ballard Berkeley).

Berkeley, forever to be known as the befuddled Major in Fawlty Towers, was an actor with a considerable pedigree before his late brush with fame at a Torquay hotel occurred. Here, he’s charm personified whilst Holman, another actor who appeared in many major British films (albeit in small roles), has a nice cameo as the eccentric photographer.

And what, you may ask, has Peter Brady been doing all this time? Not a great deal, it has to be said. He does get involved with the original blackmail payoff and is on hand to deal with the blackmailer at the end, but it’s Barbara who unmasks him – so with a little spot of rewriting this story could have dispensed with the Invisible Man altogether.

But it’s still entertaining and even if the plot twists shouldn’t take you by surprise, Play to Kill is another solid episode which coasts along thanks to the experienced hands in front of the camera.

H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Shadow on the Screen

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Brady is persuaded to board a Russian trawler in order to help a sailor who wishes to defect.  But he doesn’t know that the Russians have developed an ingenious device which allows them to “see” him when he’s invisible ….

Shadow on the Screen is somewhat clunky.  This is partly due to the wide array of false Russian accents on display but some of Ian Stuart Black’s dialogue is also rather stilted, especially in the early scenes.  Brady is visited by Bratski (Raymond Phillips) a man who has dedicated his life to rescuing dissidents from behind the Iron Curtain.  Whilst Bratski is impassioned, Brady is non-committal about pausing his researches in to order to help Stephan Vasa (Edward Judd).  Phillips doesn’t really convince and things aren’t helped by the very earnest speech then delivered by Brady.

Week after week refugees escape from the tyranny of Eastern Europe.  They jump ship, smuggle onto trains, cut their way through barbed wire.  Each step calls for human courage and suffering.

This sort of polemic doesn’t feel natural – since it’s hard to believe anybody would actually speak like that.

Edward Judd doesn’t do a great deal, but it’s nice to see him nonetheless (if you haven’t caught it before, then I recommend the classic early 60’s British sci-fi film The Day The Earth Caught Fire, which features a fine performance from Judd).  Vasa’s wife Sonia (Greta Gynt) is also lightly sketched and is chiefly memorable for her expressive facial contortions in the opening scene once Vasa is dragged back onto the ship (after an unsuccessful attempt to make a break for freedom).

But if the main story is a little unengaging, there’s plenty of compensations elsewhere.  Brady goes invisible and is driven around by Dee.  The only way we know he’s there is courtesy of his cigarette, which pleasingly bobs up and down every time he talks!  Such a simple effect, but it really sells the illusion that he’s sitting in the passenger seat.

These scenes also have a pleasant travelogue air as Dee drives around the eerily deserted streets of London (which more than anything helps to date the story) and past various notable landmarks.

There’s a lovely touch of comedy as Brady encounters a woman in a lift, not once but twice, who he confounds each time with his invisible ways.  She’s played by the peerless Irene Handel which is the reason why these short scenes are such a joy.

The Invisible Man detector is a handy gadget, although unsurprisingly it’s not something that turns up again (it’s pretty obvious why – since it rather negates Brady’s USP).  There’s fun and games during the closing minutes as Brady – kept captive on the trawler – uses all the invisible tricks at his disposal to gain his freedom and that of Vasa.

It’s fairly simplistic stuff then, but if the twenty-five minute format always means that character development rarely rises above the perfunctory level, conversely it also allows the episode to rattle along at a fine pace.

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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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H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Blind Justice

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A friend of Brady’s, airline pilot Arthur Holt (Philip Friend), is convinced that his plane is being used for drug smuggling.  His co-pilot Sandy Mason (Jack Watling) is implicated in the smuggling ring and frames Arthur.  Before Arthur can tell the authorities all he knows about the smugglers, he’s shot – with the only witness to his attempted murder being his blind wife, Katherine (Honor Blackman).

A generous amount of the story – the first five minutes – is used to set everything up.  It’s pretty evident right from the start that Arthur is honest whilst Sandy has something to hide (Watling ensures that Sandy looks more than a little shifty).

Jack Watling, father of Invisible Man co-star Deborah, had form for appearing in series which featured his daughter (Doctor Who being the other notable example).  He’s just one member of a very strong cast who help to enliven this story.  Honor Blackman, a few years away from finding fame as Cathy Gale in The Avengers, is another but it’s Leslie Phillips as the cold-hearted Sparrow who makes the most vivid impression.

More used to playing comedy, Phillips plays it dead straight as the well-spoken “Cock” Sparrow, who calls at Arthur’s house, claiming to be a friend of his.  But when Arthur turns up, he shoots him and makes a swift exit.  Did Sparrow know that Katherine was blind and would therefore struggle to describe him?  Even if he did, it seems a little foolhardy to have struck up a conversation with her, as proves to be key in bringing him to justice.

Robert Raglan plays Detective Inspector Heath, yet another police officer completely unfazed at the prospect of receiving assistance from an invisible man, whilst the very recognisable Desmond Llewelyn hovers in the background as his sergeant.

Blind Justice (ah, do you see what they did there?) makes few calls on Brady’s special power until the last few minutes – as Brady convinces Katherine to pretend she can see (and helps her along the way)  so that she can walk up to Sparrow and convince him that she saw him shoot her husband.  Brady hopes that this will break his nerve and make him confess all.

A fairly routine crime story then, but the London location filming and the incredibly impressive guest cast (especially Honor Blackman and Leslie Phillips) are more than adequate compensation.

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H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Jailbreak

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When Joe Green (Dermot Walsh) is jailed for a crime he didn’t commit, he vows to clear his name.  This he attempts to do by escaping multiple times, although on each occasion he’s caught and returned to prison.  His story reaches Brady who decides that anyone who goes to such lengths might just be innocent.  So Brady breaks into prison to find out more ….

The first thing to note is that security at the prison must be terribly lax if Joe’s been able to make a break for it on five separate occasions.  Good grief, presumably there’s a constant stream of criminals making bids for freedom!

Dermot Walsh impresses as Joe.  Walsh had a pretty lengthy career with a starring role in the 1962/63 series Richard the Lionheart.  Clearly “inspired” by a string of similar 1950’s series (most notably The Adventures of Robin Hood) it’s good clean fun and comes complete with a theme-song that’s even more jaunty than the Robin Hood effort.

Joe might have been a bad ‘un in the past but he’s attempting to go straight now.  Unfortunately for him, his reputation makes him the ideal choice to take the fall for other people’s crimes.  Joe’s dogged determination (most notable during the scenes when he’s making his escape attempts – pursued by warders and dogs) makes you root for him.  You know that everything’s going to come right in the end, but Walsh is skilled enough to take the material he’s given and play it for all it’s worth.

Lurking in the prison is Sharp (Ronald Fraser), a vicious inmate who is paid to dispose of Joe (although you get the feeling he would have been equally happy to do it for free).  Fraser’s always an actor worth watching and whilst Sharp is only a small role he makes the most of it.  The violence is kept to a minimum, but it’s plain that given the opportunity Sharp could be very unfriendly indeed.

Denny Dayviss also makes a brief, but memorable appearance.  She plays Doris, a pickpocket who pinched Joe’s wallet on the night of the crime and therefore could prove his innocence.  Dayviss only had three credits to her name, with one of the others being the wonderfully named Cynthia Smallpiece in the Hancock’s Half Hour episode Sid in Love.

Jailbreak is another routine crime story in which Brady’s invisible skills are pretty much surplus to requirements.  But as so often, the guest cast makes it a joy to watch (also of interest are Ralph Michael as the prison governor and Michael Brennan as Brenner, a somewhat unfriendly warder.  At one point Brenner moves to strike Joe, so Brady – in his invisible state – picks up an iron and knocks him unconscious!).

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H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Bank Raid

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Crowther (Willoughby Goddard) and his henchman Williams (Brian Rawlinson) kidnap Sally and issue Brady with an ultimatum.  If he wants her returned, then he’ll have to steal £50,000 from the bank ….

Bank Raid was a pretty cost-effective tale, since it used material shot for the unaired pilot.  The first half is new, with a different take on Sally’s kidnap, whilst part two is lifted direct from the pilot (the bank raid and aftermath).

The episode opens at the riverbank.  Sally appears to be fishing by herself and Williams makes a move to snatch her.  Rawlinson is decidedly creepy (Williams tells Crowther not to worry, he has a way with children).  The tension ramps up a little more as Williams advances on Sally, preparing to use his scarf as a gag.

This tension is quickly dissipated once it’s revealed that Brady (in his invisible state) is fishing alongside her.  The sight of his fishing rod bobbing up and down is a nice image as is the later scene of Brady lifting weights at home (once again invisible, of course) with Sally by his side, joining in.  It’s odd though that Brady didn’t seem to notice Williams by the riverbank, chatting to Sally.  Presumably he must have been engrossed in the fish he was attempting to land …..

In the pilot, Sally was kidnapped off-screen, here we see the girl abducted from her school.  Crowther, posing as a doctor, manages to convince Sally’s headmistress that the child’s mother is lying desperately ill in hospital.  When Dee later turns up to collect Sally she’s understandably shocked that her daughter was allowed to go off with a stranger.  Clearly it was a more trusting time.

Deborah Watling is the recipient of a few nice new scenes, most notably when Crowther is driving her away.  She idly decides that he would look much better if he was invisible!

But as with the original, once Sally’s in the clutches of Crowther and Williams she pretty much disappears, only popping up again right at the end.  My comments on the bank raid part of the plot from the pilot still stands – it’s fairly diverting stuff but the tension level is pretty low.

Willoughby Goddard is good fun as the corpulent Crowther whilst Brian Rawlinson’s Williams starts off in sinister mode (both during the fishing scene and later, when he confronts Dee in a scene from the pilot).  By the end though, both of them have been made to look faintly comic after Brady effortlessly outfoxes them.

A story of two halves then.  The new material beefs up the episode somewhat, but it’s still not the best that the series has to offer.

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H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Odds Against Death

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Brady is appalled to learn that one of his most trusted colleagues, Professor Owens (Walter Fitzgerald), is refusing to return from his holiday in Italy.  Instead he’s taken to spending all his time at the roulette table.  Brady rushes out to confront him, but everything’s not as it seems ….

It’s a little odd that the opening scene effectively blows the mystery.  We see Owens and his teenage daughter Suzy (Julia Lockwood) being menaced by Curly Caletta (Alan Tilvern) which makes it pretty obvious that Owens is being forced to use his mathematical skills in order to win huge sums of money for Caletta.

Had this scene not been included, then the reason for Owens’ sudden change of character would have been less easy to understand.  But no matter, bringing Tilvern in at the start means that he’s got a little more screentime (which is most welcome).

Alan Tilvern had the sort of face which ensured he spent a great deal of his time playing villains.  He only has to pop up here in the background, glowering gently, and you just know that his character’s a bad type.  And with a name like Curly Caletta it might not surprise you to hear that he’s an American gangster of Italian extraction.

Walter Fitzgerald, who earned a guest star credit, isn’t called on to do a great deal except look  worried and bewildered whilst Julia Lockwood, playing Owens’ daughter, has the sort of cut-class accent which wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a 1930’s film.  She’s very winsome and appealing as a damsel in distress though, even if she doesn’t have a great deal to do.

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Once Brady learns of Owens’ dilemma he pledges to help, which means using his invisible skills to rig the roulette table.  It’s rather strange that nobody questions the way that the ball seems to suddenly have developed a mind of its own – dashing from left to right until it settles precisely where Brady wants it to go!  Dee, who unexpectedly turns out to be a devotee of the roulette table, is more than delighted at the way things turn out.

Familiar faces can be spotted at the casino.  Olaf Pooley is the harassed casino manager whilst Oliver Reed is an uncredited player at the roulette table.

Like the ITC shows of the sixties, this episode mixes stock footage and studio sets to create an impression of foreign climes (pretty effectively it must be said).  The climax allows the invisible Brady to confront Caletta with a string of obvious comments. “Your luck’s run out. The odds are against you. You spun the wheel just once too often.”

Another agreeable twenty five minutes, helped along by Alan Tilvern’s polished villainy.

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H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Strange Partners

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Lucian Currie (Griffith Jones) wants his business partner Vickers (Patrick Troughton) dead and attempts to force Brady to carry out the deed ….

Strange Partners is one of the more satisfying Invisible Man episodes.  It’s powered by Jones’ portrayal of Lucian Currie, a man who is clearly teetering on the edge of sanity but nonetheless is still able to generate an air of civility.

Currie’s scheme is straightforward – Vickers has a weak heart, so if Brady punches him hard then the shock should be enough to kill him.   Because Vickers always travels with a devoted bodyguard, Ryan (Robert Cawdron), Currie can’t carry out the crime himself, hence his need for an invisible man.

And how can Currie guarantee Brady’s co-operation?  Currie has a dog, Juno, trained to detect Brady, even when invisible, and he’s more than capable of stopping and killing him if he attempts to escape.

Currie makes great play of the fact that Juno’s a killer, although it’s plain that the dog chosen to play the part is rather more benign – some of the dubbed on barks are fairly obvious it has to be said.

Griffith Jones’ career started in the 1930’s and amongst his early notable appearances was the role of the Earl of Salisbury in Laurence Olivier’s 1944 film adaptation of Henry V.  He’s easily the standout performer here – next to him Brady seems somewhat pallid (although since Currie holds the upper hand in the early part of the story that’s reasonable enough).

Patrick Troughton has less to do and his heavy make-up – no doubt intended to indicate Vickers’ illness – is a tad distracting.  Jack Melford, another of those actors with an incredibly impressive list of credits, has the small, but key, role of Collins – Currie’s butler and partner in crime.

When Currie and Collins make a late break for freedom, we’re treated to another example of Currie’s instability.  He’s driving in an increasingly reckless way, which concerns Collins, but Currie is past the point of rational thought – if they crash and die, so be it.

Restricting much of the action to Currie’s house is one of the reasons why the story works as well as it does.  Some other episodes attempted to cover too much ground which could be a problem with only twenty five minutes to play with.  Strange Partners, by being more restrictive, turns out to be a more rewarding experience.

Possibly the only major weakness revolves around Vickers’ amazing powers of recovery.  Early on, Currie does admit that although Vickers is an ill man, he’s hung on for the last fifteen years (which is quite impressive).  Even more impressive is the fact that after he’s attacked by Currie (who used the confusion caused by Brady’s escape attempt) he still manages to survive.  Given all we’ve been told, Vickers should really have been dead –  but possibly there was a slight squeamishness about this occurring in a programme which was pretty family friendly.

Aside from the solid story, there’s a couple of nice invisible moments at the start.  We see Brady winding up his clock and preparing for a good night’s sleep (an indentation in the mattress).  Overall, this is a good ‘un.

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H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Point of Destruction

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Scott (Duncan Lamont) has seen four pilots killed during tests for his new fuel diffuser.  Accidents or sabotage? Brady, a friend of Scott’s, steps in to find out ….

The cast of Point of Destruction oozes with class.  An early example is Alfred Burke, playing the test-pilot Bob (and he doesn’t even appear in the credits).  This is a little odd as although his role is qute short, it’s still a speaking part.  Always a pleasure to see Burke though, even in a small role like this.

The moment when the control tower loses contact with Bob is an effective one – rather than the crackle of a dead radio there’s simply silence – although the sting of the incidental music shortly afterwards does underscore this moment rather too obviously and melodramatically.

Is there a saboteur on Scott’s team?  With only twenty-five minutes to play with it’s not a mystery that can be maintained for any length of time, so the reveal that Dr James Court (John Rudling) has been accepting substantial sums of money from the hard-as-nails foreign agent Katrina (Patricia Jessell) occurs very early on.  Had the episode been longer then we could have been introduced to several different members of Scott’s team, leaving us to decide which one was guilty, something which could have worked well.

Court isn’t a terribly well-defined character.  Is he motivated purely by money or is it more a case of envy?  No matter, since he performs his place in the narrative perfectly effectively.  John Rudling’s television career stretched back to 1937 (a half-hour adaptation of the play-within-a-play Pyramus and Thisbe from A Midsummer’s Night Dream) but it was only towards the end of his life – when he played Brabinger in To The Manor Born – that he became something of a household name.

If you only know Rudling from To The Manor Born then you probably wouldn’t have connected Court to Brabinger (since he looked very different here).  Barry Letts, playing the control tower officer, is someone else who isn’t instantly recognisable (if he’d had a beard then I may have twigged a little earlier).

But Alfred Burke and Duncan Lamont are both very distinctive as is Derren Nesbitt.  There’s certainly no mistaking Nesbitt, one of the longest-serving of the ITC utility players (he appeared in pretty much every ITC adventure series, almost always as a villain).  In Point of Destruction he plays Stephan, Katrina’s henchman.  Even his first scene, in which he does nothing but lurk in the background – smoking a cigarette in a threatening manner – is a treat, but he soon ramps up the villainy.

He and Katrina set off to kill Brady and he almost manages it (via a well-aimed shot with a high-powered rifle).  This then leads into a nicely mounted action scene as a wounded Brady attempts to escape.  Yes, it’s something of a diversion from the main plot, but it’s exciting nonetheless.

With a cast like this, how can you not love Point of Destruction? Maybe developing Court’s character and motivation a little more would have been a good idea, but I’m happy just to sit back and enjoy the acting.

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H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Death Cell

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Ellen Summers (Lana Morris) approaches Brady on his train journey home with a very strange story.  She’s just escaped from a sanatorium, where she claims that she’s been kept prisoner for months.  Ellen insists she’s not mad and tells Brady that she’s the only one who can prove that her boyfriend George Wilson (William Lucas) is innocent of murder ….

Brady’s a touch tardy when he gets off the train.  He heads off to speak to Dee, not noticing that Ellen isn’t by his side.  Still if Ellen had stayed with him then I guess the story would have been much more straightforward!

Death Cell is another episode which doesn’t have a great deal of mystery.  If George is innocent then Dr Trevor (Ian Wallace), the sanatorium’s director (as well as the chief prosecution witness during George’s trial) is clearly guilty.  When Brady meets him, Dr Trevor claims that Ellen is suffering from persecution mania, but it’s not a terribly convincing performance.  Dr Trevor I mean, not Ian Wallace, who’s perfectly fine.

The later sight of a recaptured Ellen, bound in a straightjacket, gagged and about to receive a hefty injection of something which will no doubt quieten her down is a somewhat disturbing one (and serves as a very effective cliffhanger into the episode break).  Luckily Brady’s lurking about and dishes out some invisible justice (striking Dr Trevor with a chair!)

William Lucas (probably best known for The Adventures of Black Beauty amongst many other credits) nicely underplays as the innocent George.  The news that he’s due to be hanged the following day serves as a reminder that this was a very different time as well as providing the story with considerable dramatic impetus – a race against the clock to save a man’s life.

Lana Morris started her career as a supporting actress in a number of British films during the 1940’s and 1950’s.  However she never seemed to find the major role that would have catapulted her to stardom and so like many others later pursued a successful television career.  She appeared as Helene in the classic 1967 adaptation of The Forsythe Saga whilst her last role was as Vanessa in Howards’ Way.  Since that’s a series that’s on my rewatch pile, I look forward to making her acquaintance again shortly.

Ellen has proof of George’s innocence – a photograph hidden behind the wallpaper in her old flat.  Luckily it’s still there, even though a new tenant has moved in, and Brady is the one who scrapes the wallpaper away to find it (a blatant excuse for a touch of invisible shenanigans, but why not).

To misplace Ellen once is unfortunate, but to lose her a second time smacks of carelessness.  Brady sends Ellen out of the flat whilst he tidies up, but wouldn’t you guess it – Dr Trevor and his devoted assistant Nurse Beck (Bettina Dickson) are waiting outside, complete with a fast car and knock out drops.

The action comes thick and fast as Ellen escapes from Dr Trevor yet again, only to be knocked down by another car.  Luckily there’s a policeman close at hand, who isn’t happy for her to be whisked off yet again by Dr Trevor (the officer is concerned that she was running away from him).  Dr Trevor’s reply is succinct.  “She’s a mental case”.

If some of the plotting is rather convenient – Dr Trevor is a murderer who just happens to own a sanatorium (all the better for confining the likes of Ellen) – then there’s a good level of suspense which is maintained until the closing minutes.  With Ellen injured in hospital and Dr Trevor now in possession of the photograph, all seems lost for George.

True, it’s a tad convenient that Brady turns up just in the nick of time.  Dr Trevor’s about to burn the negative, but Brady pulls it out of his hand (“oh no you don’t!”)  The following scene, with George about to set off for the scaffold, is chilling in it’s own curtailed way, but once again Brady pops up at just the right moment.  A few quibbles about the story apart, Death Cell packs a lot into its twenty five minutes.

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H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – The Vanishing Evidence

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When a colleague of Brady’s is murdered and the secret formula he was working on stolen, the Invisible Man is sent on a mission to Amsterdam.  The authorities are hopeful that they’ll be able to retrieve the papers from the thief, Peter Thal (Charles Gray), and they need Brady on hand in order to verify that they’re genuine.  But when the agent tasked with recovering the papers, Jenny Reyden (Sarah Lawson), is forced to kill Thal, Brady has to somehow work out a way to get the papers out of Thal’s safe as well as ensuring Jenny is released from the clutches of the authorities ….

Thal might have gained access to Professor Harper’s (James Raglan) house on the pretext that he was a fellow scientist, but it’s pretty obvious within the first few seconds that he’s a wrong-‘un.  Even with a slightly dodgy foreign accent, Gray is his usual sinister self – best seen when Thal casually confirms that nobody else worked with Harper on the project and also that all the papers are sitting on his desk (a tad convenient, it must be said).  Once he’s satisfied about these points, he shoots Harper in cold blood and coolly walks out with the formula.

It’s a pity that Thal doesn’t stick around the episode longer (he’s killed some ten minutes in) but at least he has a memorable death scene.  After realising that Jenny is a spy rather than his contact, they have a brief struggle.  Physical violence wasn’t really a feature of this era of television (at least not in drama of this type) so it’s slightly unusual to see Thal manhandle Jenny quite so roughly (grabbing her by the throat).  But she’s no shrinking violet – she’s able to reach into her bag, pull out a gun and shoot him.

Thal takes a long time to die, it must be said.   He’s able to stagger about the room, open the window, throw the safe key out of the window, leer at Jenny in a self-satisfied way and then grab the curtains before collapsing.  If you’re going to go, then go in style ….

I don’t quite understand why Jenny, if she’s a spy, also appears to be something of a celebrity.  She’s featured on the front page of a magazine, which enables the hotel porter (played by Michael Ripper) to easily identify her.

Ripper, a very familiar Hammer stalwart, is great fun.  Subtle he isn’t, but entertaining he is.  When the gunshot rings out, the porter becomes boggle-eyed, dashing about in a frenzy.  You can also guess the way he’s going to react when Brady starts doing some invisible antics in front of him (and he doesn’t disappoint).  Michael Ripper, master of the shocked and surprised expression. For some reason, Brady elects to play two invisible people (a man and a woman) whilst lifting Thal’s flat key from under the porter’s nose – all the better to bamboozle him I guess.

Sarah Lawson had plenty of credits to her name, although for me her role as Flo Mayhew in Callan was especially noteworthy.  The always dependable Ewen Solon appears as Superintendent Van Reyneveld whilst Peter Illing somewhat chews the scenery as Inspector Strang.

This is another story where Brady’s invisible abilities are somewhat underused (yes, he breaks into Thal’s flat to get the papers, but since he took the porter along it was hardly clandestine).  It’s also a pity that the oddities of Jenny’s character are never addressed.  Not the best story then, but a substantial comic role for Michael Ripper helps to soften the blow a little.

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H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – The Prize

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Brady is concerned to hear about the fate of the Russian writer Tania Roskov (Mia Zetterling).  Due to attend a prize-ceremony in the West, at the last minute she was intercepted at the border by the cruel Commisar Gunzi (Anton Diffring).  Brady sets off to rescue her, but it won’t be easy – first he’ll need to cross a minefield, but even if he gets that far then his problems will be far from over ….

The Prize is another Invisible Man Iron Curtain tale.  As before, everything is seen in stark black and white – West equals good and just whilst East stands for oppression and persecution.  Quite why the state should act in such a draconian fashion towards Tania isn’t too clear – handled differently, her prize could have been a propaganda coup for them.

That Brady’s only too keen to risk his life for her is also a part of the story that’s rather undeveloped.  Had he been quaffing too much champagne prior to the awards ceremony?  If not, it’s hard to see why he’s prepared to go to such lengths (especially since they’ve never actually met).

From Ingmar Bergman’s dark 1944 film Torment to the lighter fare of 1962’s Only Two Can Play (appearing opposite Peter Sellers), Mai Zetterling had a pretty varied career.   She’s suitably winsome and determined as Tania, a woman of conviction who isn’t prepared to renounce her writings.  Unsurprisingly we never see any pressure, other than verbal, applied to her – although it’s possible to imagine that other forms of persuasion could have happened off-screen.

Gunzi is the sort of role that Anton Diffring could have played in his sleep (a single-minded instrument of state, totally without mercy or humanity).  But although Diffring’s on very familiar ground he’s still an imposing screen presence.  You know that Brady will get the better of Gunzi eventually, but he’s shown to be no pushover to begin with (he successfully manages to lock Brady up).  Round one to Gunzi then.  But Brady manages to escape and then locks Gunzi up.  Round two to Brady.

Tania isn’t the only dissident held by Gunzi, but she’s the only one that Brady’s interested in.  A pity that all the others are left to suffer their fates, but presumably they weren’t as pretty as Tania ….

The Prize is an efficient runaround with plenty of guards and guns.    It’s not a terribly deep story – the political angle is quite slight and neither of the main characters (Tania and Gunzi) ever feel like real, three-dimensional characters – but as so often with this series it’s breezy enough fare.

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H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Flight into Darkness

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On the eve of demonstrating the results of his groundbreaking research into electromagnetism, Dr Steve Stephens (Geoffrey Keen) disappears.  Brady, a close colleague, attempts to locate him before his work is appropriated by foreign agents ….

The first scene makes it plain that all is not well with Stephens – although Brady tells him how important his work is, Stephens seems subdued and non-committal.  And after Stephens is left alone he smashes up his lab and destroys his papers.  It has to be said that Keen does this in a rather half-hearted way – rather than acting in a mad frenzy, there’s almost an apologetic air as Stephens destroys various instruments and eventually manages to set fire to his papers.  Stephen’s fake-looking beard is a touch distracting (although this is addressed in a few scenes time after we see him clean-shaven, no doubt because he’s attempting to go incognito).

When Stephens doesn’t show up the following day, Brady steps in to demonstrate his work.  It’s certainly eye-opening – you’ll believe a guinea pig could fly – and the men from the ministry can quickly see the possibilities.  Eh?  The ability to levitate guinea pigs isn’t something which has many practical advantages, unless it could also be applied to men ….

And this is the crux of the story.  Stephens is a scientist interested only in pure research – the thought of his work being used in any sort of military or offensive context disgusts him (although it’s odd that he’s never considered this before – after all he’s been working in this area for five years).

Stephens’ research would naturally be of great interest to unfriendly powers, which means that foreign agents such as Wilson (Esmond Knight) are doing their best to obtain it.  Wilson, posing as a member of a peace organisation, attempts to convince Stephens that it would be better if his invention was shared with the entire world.  This is a familiar theme – if a scientist can’t be bought with money, then appealing to his peace-loving nature might just work instead.  To his credit, Stephens sees right through Wilson and even the attentions of Sewell (Colin Douglas) who’s armed with a nasty-looking cosh doesn’t change his mind.

Flight into Darkness raises some interesting points, such as the moral dilemma faced by scientists who risk having their discoveries misused, but there’s simply not the time to develop this in any detail.  The reason for Stephens’ sudden breakdown isn’t at all clear (it’s suggested at one point that Wilson’s earlier arguments had turned his head, but since we later see him reject Wilson’s request for the formula this can’t be so).

Wilson isn’t the most nuanced of characters and by the end of the episode he’s become a frantic, gun-waving heavy.  Stephens’ daughter Pat (Joanna Dunham) adds a touch of glamour as the damsel-in-distress who inevitably falls into the clutches of the baddies, but it’s not long before Brady turns up to rescue her, so only minimal tension is created.

The cast, as so often, can’t be faulted but this is pretty thin stuff.  A trip to Covent Garden market is one highlight from a pretty average episode.

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H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – The Decoy

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Toni and Terri Trent (both played by Betta St. John) are a successful American singing duo who have just arrived in London.  When Terri disappears, Toni and Brady join up to find her ….

The first few minutes sets up the story.  Terri, looking out of her hotel-room window, witnesses a murder.  She reports this to the hotel manager, Stavros (Philip Leaver), but since he’s an accomplice this wasn’t the wisest of moves.  When the murderer,  Andreas (Wolfe Morris), realises that she can identify him, Terri needs to disappear.  Given that Andreas has a very prominent scar, Terri is able to describe him very easily (perhaps choosing someone more nondescript would have been a better idea).

The plot of this one isn’t quite watertight.  We later learn, thanks to Brady’s invisible shadowing, that the dead man was executed by his (unnamed) government.  That’s reasonable enough, but since they balk at killing Terri exactly what are they going to do with her?  In the short term she’s kept prisoner on an island, with Andreas and others in attendance, but that clearly can’t go on forever.

When Terri is reunited with Toni, the underlings then decide it would be better if both girls were disposed of.  If only they’d killed Terri to begin with then they wouldn’t have had all this trouble ….

But the meeting of the two sisters at least allows us to enjoy a touch of split-screen photography (pretty impressive) as well as a few scenes where St. John shares the screen with a double (not so good as her double seems to be about a foot shorter!)

Brady’s pretty invisible (sorry) in this one.  His dialogue is kept to a minimum as the other characters drive the plot.  He does have a few good moments though – an invisible punch-up at the end and an amusing sequence earlier on when he fails to hail a cab (one of the drawbacks of being an invisible man).

The Decoy makes a change from the spy stories of the last few episodes, but it’s another entry which struggles to rise above average.

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