Memoirs of an Invisible Man is a 1992 film directed by John Carpenter starring Chevy Chase and, among others, Daryl Hannah and Sam Neill. It must be said that 1992’s Carpenter was very different from the Carpenter that only a few years before had made masterpieces like Halloween (1978), Escape from New York (1981), The thing (1982), and Big Trouble in Little China (1986). In fact, after the latter movie bombed at the box-office, Carpenter devoted himself to two independent projects (Prince of Darkness and They Live in 1987 and 1988, respectively) and then stayed away from the industry for a few years.
In 1992, Ivan Reitman (who directed Ghostbusters in 1984, for example) was due to direct Memoirs of an Invisible Man. After a few days of work, Reitman, who knew his s**t, went to the producers with an ultimatum: “Either you kick out Chevy Chase or you kick me out.” The producers kicked him out without a second thought and replaced him with Carpenter, who started working on a project that wasn’t his own and couldn’t ask for any creative control over it. Thanks to this opportunity he returned to work on a film with an important budget, but he limited himself to directing: it’s no coincidence that the movie doesn’t have the traditional “John Carpenter’s” in front of the title.
But… the main problem of the film hadn’t been solved: Chevy Chase, as Ivan Reitman had fully understood, wasn’t the right actor for the lead role. He had no chemistry with the female counterpart Daryl Hannah, and most importantly his comedic talent was of no use for a role that was more dramatic than anything else. So the final result is a film which is well shot, of course, but it’s a little dull especially because the one who should give it strength, Chevy Chase, was unable to do so.
As for the rest, the plot is interesting, with the invisible man becoming… invisible due to an accident and not being a person willing to use this power for shady purposes (nor for superheroistic ones). The antagonists are government’s men, something which has certainly pleased the old anarchist Carpenter who has never missed an opportunity to put the authorities in a bad light. But even here there’s a certain casting problem: both the CIA agent played by Sam Neill and his superior played by Stephen Tobolowsky are not that menacing. Neither of the two actors seems particularly gifted for such a negative role (Tobolowsky is the captain of the guards in Spaceballs by Mel Brooks!). But at least we got something good out of this: I suppose that Carpenter met Sam Neill when working on this movie then decided to make him the protagonist two years later in one of his best films: In the Mouth of Madness!
Returning to Memoirs of an Invisible Man, how can we not mention the soundtrack composed by Shirley Walker, apparently the first woman to compose an orchestral soundtrack in a high-budget Hollywood movie? The music is good, but… it’s not Carpenter’s! The director gave us wonderful soundtracks and only rarely did he not compose the music of one of his films. Memoirs of an Invisible Man is one of those exceptions, another “proof” that here the director merely did what they asked him to do and nothing more. In fact, I was surprised to see him in the helicopter pilot’s cameo towards the end of the film! In short, how to conclude this short review of the film? I’m glad that I saw it and that I have added the DVD to my collection for reasons of completeness (borderline pathological), and I’m sure that I will rewatch it some day, but if I were to recommend a Carpenter film this one wouldn’t come to my mind. Ciao!