Running through the remaining films of John Carpenter that I haven’t already seen, I’m really getting into the dregs now. Still, Memoirs of an Invisible Man wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d heard. Which is just to say that it didn’t spend its entire 99 minute running time trying to kill my mom in front of me.
In some ways, I actually watched it at the optimal point in my Carpenter make-up retrospective; right after tracking down the vastly superior Someone’s Watching Me! While at first glance Memoirs seems distinctly out of place in Carpenter’s oeuvre, it actually makes more sense when placed next to that film. Most of Carpenter’s films channel his directorial influences from folks like Hawks and Leone, but both Someone’s Watching Me! and Memoirs are pure Hitchcock, the former in the Rear Window mode, the latter in the North by Northwest/Man Who Knew Too Much mode. There’s even a sequence on a train!
And while watching Carpenter ape Hitch in Someone’s Watching Me! was a constant joy, in Memoirs it mostly feels lifeless. Like I said, Memoirs was not as bad as I’d heard, because I watched the whole thing and am still alive, but that isn’t to say that it’s good, or anything. It’s still way, way down in the constellation of Carpenter’s films. It’s got some extremely early ILM special effects that aren’t bad (though I think it’s funny that, where invisibility effects are concerned, we still haven’t done much to improve upon James Whale’s 1933 version), there’s not as much lame comedy as you might expect with Chevy Chase in the lead, and we all get to watch Sam Neil being reptilian, as we’ve come to expect from him. At its best, Memoirs is still pretty by-the-numbers, and there’s really nothing to recommend it unless you’re a Carpenter completist. But if you are a Carpenter completist, well, I guess the good news is that it’s probably not the worst thing you have to look forward to.
Me, I only have a tiny handful of titles left to go, though there is still a three-hour Elvis biopic in my future…