Friday, June 05, 2009

Latter-Day Carpenter Part 3: Fantasmo Remembers Memoirs of an Invisible Man

Over at his terrific blog, Fantasmo Cult Cinema Explosion, Jim Blanton joins the debate on 1990-2001 era John Carpenter films, offering a spirited defense of the much-disliked Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992).

In a detailed, illuminating piece, Jim contextualizes the film as a Carpenter-style updating of the Hitchcock suspense thriller, a "wrong man" picture such as North by Northwest (1960):

If Vampires is a play on Red River, and Ghost of Mars a play on Rio Bravo, then Memoirs is certainly Carpenter’s tribute to Hitchcock. It is nothing less than North By Northwest meets The Invisible Man, with Chevy Case as Cary Grant, Daryl Hannah as Eva Marie Saint, and Sam Neill as James Mason.

In a nutshell it’s a wrong man, cross-country chase, featuring visually dazzling set pieces, an expansive orchestral score, and an undercurrent of humor. They even get on a train at one point. Having read the book (I’ll touch on that more in a moment) I can tell you that this Hitchcockian approach was developed for the movie, and I have to believe that’s what attracted Carpenter to this project. So with Memoirs I’d argue that Carpenter is doing nothing less than what he has done with so many of his movies, by adapting a version of a film favorite into another genre (sci-fi) perceived more agreeable to modern (circa-1992) audiences. So his name being absent before the title notwithstanding, this is most definitely a Carpenter film in the most important sense.

Now, anyone out there want to stand up and blog in support for Village of the Damned (1995)?


  1. I don't think Memoirs is a wholly successful effort but I do like its breezy tone and Hitchcockian flavor. I would say it displays Carpenter's viewpoint by its cynical distrust of institutions. Chase's character ultimately only has himself to rely on and that's a perennial Carpenter theme. Carpenter loves self-reliant loners and Chase's Nick Halloway fits that mold. As Neill's character says, Halloway was "invisible before he became invisible" and that makes him a good fit in Carpenter's filmography.

  2. I love that your essay on Ghost of Mars has started a trend of Carpenter re-evaluations! And, yes, I can't wait for someone to tackle Village of the Damned...

  3. Hey Joe,

    I love it too! It's great.

    I think so many of us love John Carpenter and his films, and are tired of the meme that he didn't make any good movies after 1988.

    I think we all agree that he did; even if we can't agree WHICH movies they were. (For me, Ghosts of Mars; for you Vampires, for Jim Memoirs...).

    Although now that I think about it, we all might agree on In The Mouth of Madness as being a pretty solid film...


  4. I love Memoirs of an Invisible Man. I'm a big Sam Neill fan, but I'm up there cheering when Halloway tricks David Jenkins.

  5. For the record, I enjoy Ghosts of Mars just as much as Vampires... though I think that Vampires is the bolder of the two.

  6. Anonymous5:47 PM

    I also would love to see someone mount a defense of Village of the Damned. To me it's the only one of the bunch that is hard to stomach. There are some moments I love (e.g. when Reeve debates the children), but they are few and far between. Still I want to like any Carpenter, so I'm ready to believe : )


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