Film people love to gab about a director’s career as if somehow everything they wanted to make was meticulously planned out and all their creative and casting wishes came true. Very rarely does a director have true control over their career. They hustle and beg producers and production companies to let them make their dream projects with only a little compromise. Sometimes they make a film that’s deeply personal. Other times they make films because they need to direct to remind people they are alive and pay the mortgage and alimony. John Carpenter had a great hot streak in the ’70s and ’80s. Memoirs of An Invisible Man was not supposed to be a John Carpenter film. The studio had William Goldman adapt the novel as a starring vehicle for Chevy Chase (Fletch). Ivan Reitman was attached to direct since he could make science fiction comedy based on Ghostbusters. But then creative differences struck and Ivan left. This is when John Carpenter arrived eager to make a film and play with invisibility effects. In a sense this is not so much a John Carpenter film as much as John Carpenter makes a Chevy Chase film.
Nick Halloway (Chase) works in the stock market and really hates doing much of anything else. He’s rather anti-social until his buddy George Talbot (Good Omen‘s Michael McKean) lures him out for a drink and a chance to meet Alice Monroe (Kill Bill‘s Daryl Hannah). He gets a long with her, but can’t quite do too much since he has to go to a Magnascopic Laboratories for a shareholders meeting. When Nick’s in the bathroom, something goes extremely wrong in a lab. Half the building just vanishes including the part that contains Nick. Things haven’t blown up. Somehow, the disaster has turned things invisible including all of Nick. CIA operative David Jenkins (Jurassic Park‘s Sam Neill) arrives to offer help except Nick gets a sense that they’re not going to cure his vanishing issue so much as use him as lab animal. He immediately sneaks away into the night hoping the invisibility wears off before he’s nabbed.
Memoirs of an Invisible Man is a strange film since even though Chevy is invisible, he can me seen in scenes. Perhaps producers were fearful that audience didn’t just want to hear Chevy for 95% of the film like in Oh! Heavenly Dog where Benji did the heavy work. But when Chevy does vanish on the screen, Carpenter and Industrial Light & Magic go beyond just repeating the tricks from The Invisible Man. There’s a scene where you can see Chase through raindrops on his face that still works even though CGI effects have made such quantum leaps over the last 26 years. Carpenter does bring his touch to quite a few scenes and thus makes this one of the better Chevy Chase films not called Caddyshack. The supporting cast adds a lot as Sam Neill strikes a devious pose pursing the vanishing Chase. The film shows a vanishing San Francisco that isn’t clogged with internet start up companies. This is much better than I remembered from watching a decades ago at a buck theater. Carpenter might have been a gun for hire, but he made sure that he didn’t vanish from Memoirs of an Invisible Man.
The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The upgrade on the resolution doesn’t really ruin any of the early CGI special effects. The audio is HD-Master Audio Stereo that has the levels right so Chevy’s voice over doesn’t stomp on the music. The film is subtitled.
How to Become Invisible: The Dawn of Digital F/X (4:11) is a vintage feature that touches on what ILM did as they moved away from purely optical effects. They show Chevy being tortured in blue suits and contact lenses.
Vintage Interviews (5:23) includes talks on the set with John Carpenter, Chevy Chase and Darryl Hannah. We see that half vanished the lab building was a physical effect.
Behind the Scenes Footage (5:07) includes Carpenter pressing the button to cause the accident in the lab. He wears the production ballcap on the set.
Outtakes (3:09) include extra moments with the investigators entering the building and the weird surgery scene. Plus extra Michael McKean in a blue and white sweater.
Theatrical Trailer (2:01) shows us an invisible man blowing gum. The make it feel like a film noir.
TV Spots (4:11) is several ads about the invisibility concept.
Scream Factory presents Memoirs of an Invisible Man. Directed by John Carpenter. Screenplay by: Robert Collector, Dana Olsen and William Goldman. Starring: Chevy Chase, Daryl Hannah, Sam Neill, Michael McKean and Stephen Tobolowsky. Rated: PG-13. Running Time: 99 minutes. Released: July 24, 2018.
Tags: Chevy Chase, John Carpenter, memoirs of an invisible man, Scream Factory