31 October 2014

The Invisible Ray (1936)
79 min.
Directed by Lambert Hillyer.
With Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Frances Drake, Frank Lawton, Walter Kingsford, Beulah Bondi, Violet Kimble Cooper, Frank Reicher.
Karloff and Lugosi co-star in this enjoyable Universal horror from 1936.

Inviting famed chemist Felix Benet (Lugosi) and other professional colleagues for a meeting, astrophysicist Dr. Janos Rukh (Karloff) plans to unveil his latest scientific discovery.

The big news? Rukh has proven that a huge meteorite crashed in Africa eons ago, and that portions of the meteor contain a mysterious new element called 'Radium X.'

So, he and his associates embark on a quest to Africa in hopes of locating the crash site, but it's Rukh himself who finds the Radium X deposits.

However, when he exposes himself to the properties of the strange element, Rukh turns into a glowing monster whose days are limited...and whose physical touch means instant death to whomever receives it!

As his brain deteriorates - and his jealousies are ignited - the increasingly demented Rukh becomes a mad killer out to assassinate his friends and loved ones.

Great art deco sets and confident direction from Hillyer (who helmed Dracula's Daughter the same year) highlight this sci-fi terror, but of course it's Lugosi and Karloff who really breathe life into The Invisible Ray.

And although Bela is terribly underused here, both legends deliver enthusiastic, watchable performances.

Best scene: that, uh, combustible climax.

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