It's the best of the three Japanese black-and-white Invisible Man films I've seen. It's still not good.
It's better than the other two because it's less boring. (I didn't say "not".) The police are investigating a series of mysterious and sometimes impossible murders. There's almost no characterisation, except for the baddies, but the film's still watchable for a modern audience because it feels so familiar. It's like a serial killer flick. We've been brought up on grizzled cops poking through clues. We know the formula. We pay attention to the cops not trusting the friendly, lovable Kusunoki and double-checking his story. We nod in satisfaction as a cop mentions the sound of a buzzing fly at two murder scenes.
What's more, we also have an Invisible Man, a Human Fly and some truly incredible Movie Science. Theoretically the latter should be hilarious, but somehow the film's rather dull tone squashes it. The Human Fly is entertaining, though.
INVISIBLE MAN = there's an invisibility ray that never works the same way twice. Sometimes it doesn't affect skin and hair, so you'll see a head floating cheerfully in mid-air. (Fortunately, though, one of these Partially Invisible Men can turn themselves fully invisible by covering up all exposed skin with some invisible cloth. No, really. Stop laughing. You can also have an Invisible Girl changing clothes in front of everyone and it's completely modest.) The ray's effects are irreversible, except when they're not. Some people can turn their invisibility on and off at will. In other scenes, you can only return to normal with a restoration ray that will give you massive terminal cancer and kill you in minutes. They demonstrate this on rabbits. (The film forgets that hair's supposed to remain visible for the rabbits' scenes, by the way.) Then, at the end of the film, the scientists say they've built a safe restoration ray... and no one asks how they've tested this. Have they proved that it's not still giving cancer? Have they monitored one of their rabbits for a year, or ten years? Personally, I wouldn't trust that restoration ray as far as I could throw it.
The Invisible Man's still not evil, though. He's also rubbish at being an Invisible Man.
HUMAN FLY = is an innocent-looking man-child with a big smile, especially when stabbing people. That's quite sinister. He's also addicted to the drug he uses to shrink and grow. Wonderfully, it seems that growing small is enough in itself to enable flight. The Fly-Man is just a little man buzzing around in mid-air like Superman. He can also stab people to death, even when he's smaller than your little finger.
Other exciting leaps of movie intelligence include:
(a) a cop who picks up a stab victim who's bleeding to death and shakes their shoulders, demanding "who killed you?"
(b) when the Human Fly is demanding to be given the invisibility ray, why not try giving him the Instant Death Cancer ray instead?
Yet again, everyone's okay with the idea of an Invisibility Man. The film also ends with scientists deciding that only the government can be trusted! "I will entrust management of my invisibility ray to the authorities." However people have trouble believing in a Fly-Man.
This film came out the year before the famous 1958 film, The Fly, and could hardly be more different from it. It might, perhaps, have been inspired by the short story that that was based on, but that seems unlikely since this Fly-Man shares so little with George Langelaan's. Is it good? No. Is it entertaining? A little bit, somewhat. The Invisible Man's as lacklustre as he had been in the two previous Japanese Invisible Man films, but the Fly-Man will stick in your memory and the film's making feeble, 1950s efforts to be trashy. (There's a train crash and a cabaret dancer in a bikini that wouldn't be safe for women with normally positioned nipples.)
It's a bit dull, to be honest. However at least it's not "please no make it stop" dull, so that's better than The Invisible Man Appears and The Invisible Avenger. It's a 1950s cop film with one-dimensional detectives and less cheese than you'd expect. I got through it okay, though. The Fly-Man's dialogue scenes have comparatively lively characterisation.