Today is the third and last film in our Karloff-Lugosi mini-marathon. The Invisible Ray stars Karloff and Dr. Janos Rukh, a man who discovers a way to view new rays of light, and becomes poisoned by them, making him glow-in-the-dark. Lugosi plays Dr. Felix Benet, an important doctor from the University of Paris, involved with the implementation of "Radium X."
|Dr. Felix Benet and Dr. Janos Rukh|
The movie opens on a stormy night in the Carpathian Mountains at the Rukh house, where the blind Mother Rukh (played by Violet Kemble Cooper) and Diane Rukh, wife of Janos Rukh (played by Frances Drake) are discussing the upcoming demonstration of an incredible discovery of Dr. Janos Rukh. Dr. Benet, Sir Francis Stevens (Walter Kingsford), Lady Arabella Stevens (Beulah Bondi), Ronald Drake (Frank Lawton) are the individuals attending this demonstration.
|The attendees focusing on the demonstration|
During this demonstration, Janos takes everyone on a televised journey on an invisible ray of light to the galaxy of Andromeda to show a meteor hitting the earth millions of years earlier. Everyone is in awe, and an expedition to Africa occurs, with Dr. Rukh joining forces with Dr. Benet and the others. Before going, Mother Rukh warns Janos not to go, saying that "he might make a great discovery, but he won't be happy." Janos goes anyway.
|The meteor hitting Earth "millions of years ago"|
A news article states next that Janos Rukh has split from the main group to discover the meteor for himself, while everyone else remains at the camp resuming their research, with Dr. Benet as the head scientist. While Rukh is gone, there is a budding love interest between Diana and Ronald Drake. On his own, Janos manages to find the meteor, but in retrieving it, he is poisoned by the radiation given off by the space rock, causing him to glow-in-the-dark. Along with this discover, Rukh discovers that any living being he touches dies. When Diana comes to visit him, he sends her away, but she doesn't yet know of Janos' condition.
|Frances Drake and Diana Rukh|
Seeking a treatment for his illness, Janos sneaks back to the camp to consult Dr. Benet. After seeing Janos glow, Dr. Benet does some test, after which he decides Janos' treatment. "There is no cure," said Dr. Benet, but the treatment is to take a small amount of the antidote Benet created each and every day for the rest of his life. Benet does warn Janos of the possibility that the reaction between the poison and the antidote might have a negative impact on Janos' brain in the long run.
|Dr. Janos Rukh glowing|
Dr. Benet figures out that Rukh is alive, however, and that he is responsible for the murders. So, Benet formulates a plan to schedule a late night meeting of scientists at his home and lure Rukh there. Rukh ends up sneaking into the party and murdering Dr. Benet, but cannot bring himself to kill Diana. Mother Rukh has been invited to the party by Dr. Benet, and right when Janos requires the antidote to stay alive, his own mother smashes the glass container with the antidote inside. Subsequently, Janos bursts into flames and dies.
|Sir Frances Stevens after being murdered.|
Overall, this was a very cerebral movie with a lot of deep and complex ideas for the time. The use of "Radium X" foreshadows the invention of Laser Eye Surgery, radiation therapy (chemo), treatment for radiation poisoning, among other important medical treatments of today. The foreword even reads:
"Every scientific fact accepted today once burned as a fantastic fire in the mind of someone called mad.
Who are we on this youngest and smallest of plants to say that the INVISIBLE RAY is impossible to science?That which you are now to see is a theory whispered in the cloisters of science. Tomorrow these theories may startle the universe as a fact."
Another incredible thing about this film is that neither Lugosi or Karloff wins in this one. Karloff kills Lugosi, but Karloff ends up dying shortly thereafter. So, I'd call it a tie. Both men portrayed their characters exceptionally well. The special effects were also quite good for the time and still stand up for the most part until today. The two notable uses of special effects are the view through the cosmos during Janos' demonstration and the glowing of Janos' skin after being poisoned. I'd say that if you like early sci-fi films, watch this one; it's very good.
I give it 4.5 antidotes out of 5