Memoirs of an Invisible Man (film)

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Not to be confused with The Invisible Man.
Memoirs of an Invisible Man
Memoirs of an invisible man.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Carpenter
Produced by Bruce Bodner
Dan Kolsrud
Arnon Milchan
Screenplay by Robert Collector
Dana Olsen
William Goldman
Based on Memoirs of an Invisible Man 
by H.F. Saint
Starring Chevy Chase
Daryl Hannah
Sam Neill
Paul Perri
Pat Skipper
Music by Shirley Walker
Cinematography William A. Fraker
Edited by Marion Rothman
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • February 28, 1992 (1992-02-28)
Running time
99 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40 million
Box office $14.3 million

Memoirs of an Invisible Man is a 1992 film directed by John Carpenter and released by Warner Bros., with many scenes taking place in and around San Francisco. The film is loosely based on a 1987 novel of the same name by H.F. Saint. According to William Goldman's book Which Lie Did I Tell?, the film was initially developed for director Ivan Reitman; however, this version never came to fruition, due to disagreements between Reitman and Chevy Chase. The director deviated from his usual practice of titling the film as "John Carpenter's" because he knew that Warner Brothers would not allow him full artistic control, saying that the studio "is in the business of making audience-friendly, non-challenging movies."[1]

A mixture of suspense, science fiction, comedy and drama, it stars Chevy Chase, Daryl Hannah, Sam Neill, Michael McKean and Stephen Tobolowsky.


The movie opens with the invisible Nick Halloway (Chevy Chase) dictating his memoirs into a video camera. To prove it is not a camera trick, he chews some bubble gum. Nick goes on to narrate the story of how he came to be invisible, beginning a few days earlier at his job as a stock analyst. His secretary, Cathy DiTolla (Rosalind Chao), refers to him as a "bullshit artist", and he spends most of his life avoiding responsibility and connections with other people. At his favorite bar, the Academy Club, his friend George Talbot (Michael McKean) invites him to join his table where Nick meets Alice Monroe (Daryl Hannah), a TV documentary producer. Sharing an instant attraction, Nick and Alice make out in the ladies' room. When Alice has to leave, Nick drinks heavily to console himself, although the pair set a lunch date for Friday.

The following morning, a hungover Nick is unable to avoid going to a shareholders' meeting at Magnascopic Laboratories. Unable to endure the droning presentation by Dr. Bernard Wachs (Jim Norton), Nick leaves in search of a bathroom. When he asks a lab technician (Aaron Lustig) for directions, the technician accidentally spills his mug of coffee onto a computer console. Nick eventually finds an empty sauna and lies down on a bench for a nap. Meanwhile, the spilt coffee has caused a meltdown, and the entire building is evacuated. The building seems to explode, but there is no debris. Instead, much of the building is rendered invisible, including Nick.

CIA operative David Jenkins (Sam Neill), who has a shady past, arrives on the scene to contain the damage, and he discovers Nick's condition. While they are transferring him to an ambulance, the agents joke about how Nick will spend the rest of his life hooked up to machines and being studied by scientists. In a panic, Nick flees while everyone is distracted by the sight of the whole building vanishing into nothingness and becoming entirely invisible. Jenkins convinces his supervisor Warren Singleton (Stephen Tobolowsky) not to notify CIA headquarters so that they can capture and take credit for Nick, who could become the greatest secret agent in the world.

Nick holes up in his apartment, but Jenkins tracks him down using the guest list for the meeting. Nick decides to hide at the Academy Club. He locates Dr. Wachs in the hope that he can restore Nick's visibility. The physicist has no idea how to help, however, because none of his research had involved invisibility; what happened to Nick and the building was completely random. But Dr. Wachs is willing to help Nick as he says that he must get Nick to the lab so he and his team can start exploring how Nick's invisibility happened and how to reverse it. However, Jenkins captures and interrogates Dr. Wachs before he do anything for Nick, and eventually has him killed to keep Nick's invisibility a secret. The agents get hold of Nick's background information, but it doesn't prove useful in finding him: Nick has never been married; his parents are both dead; he has no relatives; he has a few friends but none of which he has close relationships with; and he is not even a workaholic, doing his job fast and loose. However, after hearing this information, Jenkins says that Nick's profile fits perfectly; Nick was an 'invisible man' even before the accident.

Nick decides to go to the CIA headquarters to see if he can find any information that he can use against them. Jenkins discovers Nick there and tries to talk him into joining their team as an invisible agent would be of great value to them and the country, but Nick is not interested and is disgusted with Jenkins when he says that an invisible agent would be very useful at killing people that are considered the enemy. After a confrontation at Jenkins' office, Nick decides to flee San Francisco to George's remote beach house. Unfortunately, George arrives with his wife Ellen (Patricia Heaton), Alice, and Richard (Gregory Paul Martin), another friend, to spend the weekend. When Alice returns alone to the house from the beach, Nick calls her on the telephone and asks her to come to the empty house further along the beach where he is hiding out. There, she finds him wearing a dressing gown and with his head wrapped in bandages and wearing large dark goggles. When Nick reveals his condition to Alice, she promptly faints at the sight. However, she decides to help him.

The pair board a train for Mexico, where Nick wants to set up a new life, trading stocks through Alice as a proxy. Jenkins tracks them down on the train, and during the ensuing confrontation, Nick is shot with a tranquilizer dart, loses consciousness and falls off the train as it is crossing a high bridge straight into a river. He makes his way to the video store, where he tapes his memoirs. At the end of the tape, he records an ultimatum for Jenkins: exchange Alice for the tape, or Nick will give it to the CIA and the press. Jenkins agrees, putting Alice into a cab as his men surround Nick at the phone booth, across the street. However, Nick has disguised himself as the cab driver, and George is standing in for Nick during the exchange (disguised in a trilby hat and greatcoat, as well as bandages and dark goggles — just as Nick was when he met Alice at the other beach house). Jenkins pursues the cab, eventually cornering Nick on top of a building still under construction. Using his invisible suit jacket (which has been covered in concrete dust during the chase through the site) as a decoy, Nick lures Jenkins to the edge, threatening to jump, and sends his nemesis plunging to his death. Believing Nick to be dead, along with Jenkins, Singleton tells Alice to forget everything that's happened. Nick comes to Alice, who's looking for his body, and the two walk off in secret. They move to Switzerland, and the film closes with shots of a still invisible Nick skiing down a mountainside towards their chalet, where a pregnant Alice greets him with a hot drink and a kiss.


* Pseudonym for John Carpenter.


Warner Bros paid $1.35 million for the film rights to the novel. William Goldman was assigned to write the screenplay in the mid 1980s, by which time Chevy Chase and Ivan Reitman were already attached.[4]

The project was largely a vanity project shepherded by Chase through the studio (the film is billed as "A Cornelius Production" – Cornelius is Chevy Chase's real first name). He wanted to make a film about the loneliness of invisibility, and he had tapped Ivan Reitman to direct. He intended the film to be a bridge into less comedic roles, and when Reitman discovered that he would not be directing Chase in a broad comedy, he backed out of the film. Goldman left the project saying "I'm too old and too rich for this shit."[4] He later says that Mark Canton, head of the studio, did not pay the writer for all his work causing Goldman to initiate a lawsuit against them.[5]

Near the end of the film, Nick wonders aloud what his children with Alice will look like. John Carpenter did shoot an alternate ending showing this birth, but the film only shows Alice in the later stages of pregnancy.[1]

During the scene where Alice first meets the invisible Nick, he is shown to have his head wrapped in bandages and is wearing large dark goggles — an acknowledgement to Griffin, the title character from the novel The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells.

This is one of the few John Carpenter films not scored by the director, with Shirley Walker composing the music instead (unlike prior collaborators Ennio Morricone on The Thing and Jack Nitzsche on Starman, Walker would return to Carpenter – the two co-scored the subsequent Escape From L.A.).


Box office[edit]

The film debuted at No. 2.[6] It went on to gross $14,358,033 USD.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

The film was met with a mostly negative response.[8] It has a 23% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with only 6 positive reviews out of 26 with the summary: "It boasts an intriguing cast and the special effects were groundbreaking, but they can't compensate for Memoirs of an Invisible Man‍ '​s sadly pedestrian script".

Roger Ebert wrote of the film, "The plot is lazy and conventional. What is good about the movie involves Chase and Hannah, who have to work out between them the logistical problems of their strange relationship."[9] Reviewing the movie for The Washington Post, Desson Howe mused, "Memoirs of an Invisible Man isn't a movie. It's an identity crisis. The previews would have you believe it's a zany comedy. But the jokes are too far and few between. And if it's a comedy, why is John Carpenter directing it? This is the man who did Halloween...if Memoirs wants to get serious, why is Chevy Chase in the lead? This is the man who starred in National Lampoon's European Vacation."[10]

While reviewing the DVD release of the film for Film Freak Central, Bill Chambers insists that Carpenter's use of effects makes the film worth seeing. He feels that the scene where Nick's body is outlined by raindrops is more effectively imagined than an identical scene in Daredevil.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "John Carpenter: Prince of Darkness, Film Freak Central, Bill Chambers". 
  2. ^ Lindgren, Kristina; Christian, Susan; Spencer, Terry (1992-02-28). "Cover Story : Memories of a Too-Visible Man : Tired of being identified with comedy, Chevy Chase has worked hard to reveal his serious side in 'Memoirs of an Invisible Man'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  3. ^ Gentry, Ric (1992-02-23). "WHISTLE-STOP: Fans who gawked at Chevy Chase and Daryl...". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  4. ^ a b 'Exit Line', Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 12 June 1988: K33.
  5. ^ Goldman, William, Which Lie Did I Tell?, Bloomsbury, 2000 p 10-16
  6. ^ Fox, David J. (1992-03-03). "Weekend Box Office 'Wayne's World' Keeps Partyin' On". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  7. ^ "Memoirs of an Invisible Man". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
  8. ^ Rainer, Peter (1992-02-28). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Invisible Man' Fails to Master the Possibilities". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  9. ^ "Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Roger Ebert.". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  10. ^ "Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Desson Howe". The Washington Post. 1992-02-28. 

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