review for The Invisible Woman on AllMovie

The Invisible Woman (1940)
by Hans J. Wollstein review

Famous for beating most of their dead horses, Universal dragged out the aging The Invisible Man franchise for the third time, but with a change in gender. After Margaret Sullavan wisely had refused any participation, the title role went to luckless former M-G-M starlet Virginia Bruce, who did not have the pizzazz to make this ill-conceived soufflé rise above its B-Movie origins. In the same vein, director A. Edward Sutherland and a gaggle of writers failed to flesh out the comedy-thriller's much vaunted special effects and basically left it up to a mugging John Barrymore to supply the entertainment. Patterning his comically mad scientist after older brother Lionel, Barrymore's performance has taken near legendary status and remains the primary reason for viewing The Invisible Woman today. John Fulton's special effects, used here solely for comedy, had been done better in previous films and Bruce seems to have been rendered invisible mainly to titillate an audience constantly reminded that the character is -- gasp! -- stark naked. Universal knew they had a turkey and the fact that Bruce cast a shadow even when supposedly invisible no longer mattered. The Invisible Man and his descendants had become fodder for the busy B-units and would remain so through The Invisible Agent (1942), The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944), and the inevitable Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951).