The Invisible Ray

Movie Information

The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen The Invisible Ray on Thursday, July 14, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Director: Lambert Hillyer (Dracula's Daughter)
Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Frances Drake, Frank Lawton, Beulah Bondi, Walter Kingsford
Rated: NR

Lambert Hillyer’s The Invisible Ray (1936) is the penultimate title in the first wave of Universal horror films. It’s also the third teaming of Karloff and Lugosi, the nearest the first wave came to pure science fiction and the most underrated film of the lot. It’s also the closest the Thursday Horror Picture Show could come to an appropriate title for Bastille Day, since it partly takes place in Paris (or the studio equivalent). (Unless you’re a fan of Jean Rollin’s softcore sapphic vampire pictures, the woods aren’t exactly full of French horror films.) The film has become almost legendary owing to the scene in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994) where a hapless Conrad Brooks (Brint Hinkley) makes the mistake of telling Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) that he was “great as Karloff’s sidekick.” The truth is that here Lugosi might almost fit that description, though most fans consider his underplayed Dr. Felix Benet far more interesting than Karloff’s over-the-top mad scientist, Janos Rukh. Regardless, it’s a terrific pairing in an unusual story involving a new element (Radium-X) that Rukh finds in Africa—and which turns him into a glow-in-the-dark, even-madder scientitst whose very touch kills. Solid production values, a great supporting cast, a fine Franz Waxman score and Hillyer’s direction make it an essential for classic horror fans.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

8 thoughts on “The Invisible Ray

  1. And I thought it was a moving biopic about Bob Elliott’s comedy partner.

    Also, I’d love to be able to see this in an actual theater. Maybe next year at the Plaza Film Festival (this year they’re sticking to standards, Dracula and Frankenstein. So much for The Strange Case of Doctor R/X.

  2. Ken Hanke

    So much for The Strange Case of Doctor R/X.

    You know, I’ve actually got Dr. RX pencilled in for September with the 1938 Crime Club mystery The Last Warning for a companion feature. I realize that The Last Warning isn’t a horror picture, but anyone who’s from the “Shock Theater” era will understand.

  3. Ken Hanke

    Anybody care to take a guess as to why the audience went lollipops over this one? I’m talking some pretty serious applause and whistling. Sometimes I think they’re just screwing with my mind. (The point is probably moot because it isn’t like we can program anything similar. There really isn’t anything similar.)

  4. DrSerizawa

    Boy does this brings back memories. King Kong was a family event when I was a kid. My parents and brother and I would get the popcorn ready and we’d all watch it. This is notable because my parents usually thought that such movies were “trash”. They’d turn their noses up at Frankenstein>/I> or , but not the King. When it was the longer version that kept in the battles of the sailors with the dinosaurs it was especially memorable for me. It’s a timeless classic and one that actually deserves that accolade.

    Although Jackson’s KK was entertaining it really suffers for being about an hour too long. I gotta feel somewhat sorry for these film school people who over-analyze the fun out of movies. People went to the movies to escape the depression era for a brief time, not to wallow in it.

    Though, I would pay to see someone try to get gorillas to fight Komodo dragons. Though I suspect that gorillas on the average are brighter than a lot of producers.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Doctor, I could be wrong, but I think you meant to put this in the Screening Room. Could I impose on your good nature to copy and paste it over there where it might get some notice?

Leave a Reply