Starring Ryunosuke Tsukigata, Kanji Koshiba, Ryuji Shinagawa

Directed by Shinsei Adachi, Shigehiro Fukushima & Mitsuo Mirayama

Distributed by Arrow Video

The Invisible Man Appears

I’m a rabid fan of all things tokusatsu or “special filming”. You know, special effects. It’s always thrilling to discover some rare Japanese gem that makes use of my favorite filmmaking techniques – read: practical. And a new Arrow Video double bill highlights two films making their stateside debuts for the first time ever. They showcase the influence of Western culture on traditional storylines. Specifically, crime and gangs, The Invisible Man Appears (1949) and The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly (1957) are two unique entries in the canon of H.G. Wells’s sci-fi icon. Despite smaller budgets and more limited means of filmmaking, the work on display is nearly on par with Universal’s output; a testament to the level of care and respect and creativity for which the Japanese are known.

In The Invisible Man Appears, Dr. Nakazato (Ryunosuke Tsukigata) creates a serum. One that can turn living things invisible. But unfortunately there is no reverse agent for the procedure. It also has the side effect of causing the subject to go mad. Then a group of thugs catches wind of Nakazato’s experiment. And they hatch a plan to use his serum to pull off a jewel heist. It does not go as planned.

Also Read: Madmen, Spies, and Lovers: The Invisible Man in the Movies

The story here is serviceable enough to pass. But what holds this entry up is the outstanding special effects work. They come courtesy of the legendary Eiji Tsuburaya, who six years later would birth a worldwide icon: Godzilla. Tsuburaya famously studied American films and their FX work, especially classics like King Kong and the Universal Classic Monsters franchise. Many of the tried and true techniques used by American filmmakers were employed by Tsuburaya; as a result, we get to see shots like the invisible man unwrapping his head to reveal nothing beneath. And other similar scenes in which clothing or objects are seemingly held up by some unseen person. I was honestly a bit shocked nothing here looks hokey or poorly done; it seems every effort was made to be on the level with Universal’s productions.

Less engaging, though similarly produced, is The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly. On paper, it sounds like it follows in the Universal tradition of pitting famous monsters against each other. But in reality, this is little more than a crime caper with some extraordinary characters. A series of murders has gripped the city. And the only thing they have in common is there isn’t a single clue; the one commonality they share is a buzzing sound heard before the murders. But are police to believe the crimes were committed by a house fly? Their only hope may be with a local scientist who has created an invisibility ray. This leads to an eventual showdown between the two. Though it isn’t the kind of supernatural scuffle viewers might hope for.

Also Read: MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN Blu-ray Review – Coincidentally, The Most Overlooked Film In Carpenter’s Filmography

There are a handful of good special effects moments here, even without the benefit of having Tsuburaya in charge. The human fly is superimposed onto numerous normal-sized subjects. And the work is nicely done, especially when he glides down the body of a woman. Scenes where he shrinks are equally executed with some style. I found the most amusing bit to be when the invisible man eats a banana. But only his head and hands are visible. It’s offbeat and odd in a Japanese sort of way. Though certainly the lesser of these two pictures, this is still worth a watch. Especially given its rarity and the use of some cool effects.

As plainly stated before each picture rolls, Arrow Video debuts both titles via the only source available. A 16mm exhibition print. Translation: don’t expect either one to meet the usual high quality of Arrow’s video work. The 1.37:1 1080p image on Appears is the roughest of the two. It sports numerous instances of dirt and debris, scratches, wobble, softness, etc. Having said all of that, I have no doubt this is the best the film can ever look. And Arrow deserves credit for getting it into such watchable shape. I’d much rather see the film in this quality than not at all. Human Fly looks remarkably better. With less dirt, fewer scratches, and a more balanced contrast that lends richness to the image.

Also Read: Invisible Man, The: The Legacy Collection (DVD)

Audio is similar on both; a Japanese LPCM 1.0 mono track, with sufficient English subtitles and a clean, defect-free listening experience. The score for Appears is laced with film noir influence. While Human Fly has more of a ‘50s sci-fi vibe with a great theremin theme.   

Special Features:

  • High Definition (1080p) transfers of both films on one Blu-ray disc
  • Original lossless Japanese mono audio on both films
  • Optional English subtitles for both films
  • Transparent Terrors. A newly filmed interview with critic and genre scholar Kim Newman on the history of the “Invisible Man” in cinema
  • Theatrical trailer for The Invisible Man Appears
  • Image galleries for both films
  • Reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork by Graham Humphreys
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Keith Allison, Hayley Scanlon and Tom Vincent

  • The Invisible Man Appears
  • The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly
  • Special Features


Fans of the titular character may already want to see these films, but those who appreciate old-school effects work should find both hold plenty of appeal. I champion this release if for no other reason than Arrow giving these movies a much-needed international debut after years of being locked away in Japan.

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