The Invisible Ray (1936) is the third Karloff/Lugosi teaming for Universal. It’s quite a departure from the Poe-inspired The Black Cat and The Raven because this movie is mostly a science-fiction thriller and not an actual horror movie. It does not feature any of the creepiness or Gothic vibe of the two previously mentioned films. I still liked it just because I enjoy seeing Karloff and Lugosi outside of their best known roles.
The film features Karloff as Dr. Janos Rukh, a scientist who has developed a telescope that can look far into space, far enough to see images reflecting back of Earth’s past. After seeing a meteorite crash in Africa “thousands of millions” of years ago, Karloff and a group of his colleagues (including Lugosi as Dr. Felix Benet) head off to Africa to find what they believe will be a great new element Rukh calls “Radium X”. Rukh ends up getting radiation poisoning from his new find and begins to glow and now has a “touch of death”
The initial idea was that this new element could be used to heal people, but Rukh keeps toying around with the destructive abilities of it. Tired of Rukh’s strange and methodical ways, Benet and the rest of the crew take the element back to Europe and proceed to use it to heal people. Of course, this upsets Dr. Rukh because, well, did I mention that Dr. Benet has concocted a serum to keep Rukh’s poisoning in check and that the serum is slowly causing Rukh to go mad? Yeah, this doesn’t end well.
An enjoyable movie based on star power mainly, but it vaguely passes to be branded as “Universal Horror”. Seems like “Universal Science-Fiction” to me. If old scif-fi movies are your thing though, then yes, give this one a shot.