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Mitsuo Murayama
Ryûji Shinagawa, Yoshirô Kitahara, Junko Kanô
Writing Credits:
Hajime Takaiwa

A ruthless serial killer with a peculiar method of stalking and killing his victims comes face to face with a police officer turned invisible by a scientific experiment.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Japanese LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 3/16/2020
Available As Double Feature with The Invisible Man Appears

• “Transparent Terrors” Featurette
• Image Gallery


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The Invisible vs. The Human Fly [Blu-Ray] (1957)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 21, 2021)

Eight years after 1949’s The Invisible Man Appears hit screens, Daiei Studios produced a sequel… sort of. Though both Appears and 1957’s The Invisible Man Vs. The Human Fly came from the same production company, it appears Fly doesn’t intend to follow the earlier flick’s characters and really exists as a standalone project.

In Tokyo, Chief Inspector Wakabayashi (Yoshirô Kitahara) deals with a series of mysterious murders that appear to occur under impossible circumstances. Only one factor links them: witnesses claim to hear a strange buzzing sound at the scene.

Inspector Wakabayashi’s friend Dr. Tsukioka (Ryûji Shinagawa) discovers a formula that renders its user invisible. The pair join forces to utilize the invisibility potion as a way to assist the investigation and stop the killer.

On the surface, it would seem likely that this film exists as an attempt to capitalize on the success of The Fly, a big Hollywood hit. However, the latter didn’t come out until summer 1958, nearly a year after this flick’s release.

Indeed, the short story the 1958 film used as inspiration didn’t get published until June 1957. It seems highly improbable that those behind this Japanese film read George Langelaan’s tale, stole it and rushed a movie into production so quickly that the final product hit screens in two months.

I guess we just have to chalk up the similarities to coincidence. In any case, the 1958 Fly works better than the Japanese movie, though the latter comes with its charms.

“Strong storytelling” doesn’t count as one of those strengths, though, as Fly turns into a narrative mess. Actually, it fares pretty well in that regard during its first act, mainly because the opening half-hour or so emphasizes the police investigation.

This seems likely to frustrate viewers enticed by the title, as scenes with either the Invisible Man or the Human Fly feel infrequent for quite a while. Still, Fly introduces an intriguing narrative and develops the mystery in a reasonably compelling manner.

Unfortunately, matters go bonkers before too long, and for much of the remaining running time, Fly makes nary a lick of sense. We get weird shenanigans and scenes of violence that kinda sorta connect, but they don’t feel as coherent and forward-moving as they should.

The “Invisible Man” side of the movie feels nearly gratuitous as well. While a transparent character plays a role, this becomes less important than one might assume. Honestly, the film could lose the “Invisible Man” side of the tale and work just as well – maybe even better.

The “Human Fly” part can perplex as well. Whereas in the 1958 movie, an unfortunate soul changes into an insect, here we just get a dude shrunk down really small.

At no point do we understand how a Little Guy becomes a Human Fly. Rather than actually fly, he really just floats around, and the movie doesn’t explain how he does so.

And why does he make a buzzing sound like a fly? Doesn’t that noise come from the fly’s wings, appendages the Human Fly lacks?

Odd plot and character issues aside, Fly boasts immense style, and it offers enough weirdness to become moderately fun. Also, as nightclub entertainer Mieko, Ikuko Môri steams up the screen every time she appears. Her sultry scenes might make the movie worthwhile all on their own.

Fly frustrates because it actually threatens to become something special. With some tightening and a little more care, this could’ve been a really good movie.

As it stands, Fly offers an erratic but generally watchable oddity. The movie doesn’t click consistently, but it keeps us with it much of the time.

The Disc Grades: Picture D/ Audio C-/ Bonus C

The Invisible Man vs. the Human Fly appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. A disclaimer at the film’s start warns us that the film’s surviving elements come from a flawed 16mm print, so don’t expect impressive visuals.

Though Appears didn’t look too bad, Fly became more problematic, mainly because it suffered from many more source flaws. Fly abounded with scratches, tears, specks and marks.

Like Appears, Fly displayed a fair amount of gate weave and instability. These issues created persistent distractions.

Sharpness was mostly adequate. Though the movie never felt especially detailed, it offered reasonable accuracy and didn’t come with much real softness.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred. Blacks were a bit flat and pale, while shadows seemed a bit murky. Really, the print flaws became the major issue here.

While better, the film’s LPCM monaural soundtrack came with its own restrictions. Speech seemed intelligible but tended to come across as somewhat edgy and dull.

Music showed passable range, though it could be shrill, and effects also displayed some roughness. This wasn’t a terrible track, but it seemed lackluster, even when I accounted for the movie’s age and origins.

Only a few extras appear here, and the main attraction comes from Transparent Terrors, a 24-minute, 40-second chat with film historian Kim Newman. He discusses the history of invisible men in movies, with some emphasis on the two Japanese projects on this disc.. Newman offers a nice overview of the subject matter.

In addition to the trailer for Appears, we get an Image Gallery. It shows 17 publicity stills and video release elements. It seems like a passable collection.

More police procedural and thriller than horror, The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly offers occasional entertainment. It sputters as it goes, but the movie seems stylish and weird enough to remain moderately enjoyable. The Blu-ray brings problematic picture, mediocre audio and a few bonus features. Nothing here excels, but Fly turns into a semi-interesting flick.

Note that Fly comes on a single-disc release alongside 1949’s The Invisible Man Appears.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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