Unseen and Not Heard (Memoirs of an Invisible Man, 1992)
I think if there is a forgotten John Carpenter film…this is it. Did you know that John Carpenter directed a movie with Chevy Chase and Daryl Hannah? Did you??
He almost didn’t, the film was being developed by Chase and he wanted Ivan Reitman…but he and Reitman were unable to agree on how things should go and Reitman left. One of those rare “cannot get along with Chevy Chase” stories. In fairness, Reitman wanted to make it a standard Chevy Chase vehicle, but Chase saw it as a chance to explore more serious roles.
Carpenter was brought in to provide that. Of course, this was still meant to be a studio film, which in the end means the film takes no risks.
The story focuses on self absorbed Stock Analyst Nick Hollaway (Chase) who is present in a building where there is an experiment that goes awry. In case you cannot see it coming *cough* he is left invisible. (Sorry for that) He soon finds himself on the run with new girlfriend Alice from shady CIA agent David Jenkins (Sam Neil…and not Carpenter’s last work with him).
The story is pretty standard fair with little of Carpenter’s originality. Hollaway is on the run from the CIA who want to use him for spy stuff.
There are a lot of scenes where we see Chase onscreen when he is supposed to be invisible…and it gets almost confusing in the beginning…but later, while we can see Chase on screen, he casts no reflections. The effects are remarkably good, and the most notable thing about the film. They clearly put a lot of thought about how his invisibility works. Nick and everything he was wearing are invisible…so he runs into the problem of not being able to see his hands or know exactly where they are when trying to eat. He can see his food digesting when he looks in the mirror. When he smokes, you see the smoke in his lungs. Then there is a really neat scene where rain drops temporarily illuminate Nick in front of Alice. In fact, the effects in this film hold up quite well almost twenty five years later.
You can see that Chase is trying for a darker type of role. Chevy avoids his standard mugging for the camera. And the film does not have a lot of jokes. In fact, most of the jokes come from other characters. But none of it is compelling. The film just has no unique identity.
You can even see that Carpenter did not really see himself as more than a studio employee…it is one of the few films he has directed to not bear the “John Carpenter’s” as part of the title. This is the forgotten film because it feels neither like a Carpenter film nor a Chevy Chase Film. It never really pulls you in, and Nick really lacks personality.