to spearhead a dangerous government missions. Daniel uses a human mask and gloves enabling
to interact with the outside world without revealing his unique condition.
Meanwhile the KIae Research Corporation sponsors Westin's efforts to find a cure
Cast: Dr. Daniel Westin (David McCallum); Dr. Kate Westin (Melinda Fee); Walter Carlson (Craig Stevens).
Based on the novel by H.G. Wells; Created by: Harve Bennett, Steven Bochco Producers: Leslie Stevens, Robert F. O'Neill Frank Telford; Executive Producer: Harve Bennett Music Theme: Henry Mancini; NBC/Universal 60 minutes.
"The Invisible Man was really a one-joke show," laments producer Robert O'Neill. "The minute you've taken the wrapping off his head, you've seen the joke. The joke was met with sheer terror in 1933 when Claude Rains portrayed the Invisible man in the Universal picture. Some movie patrons fainted as the sinister scientist: unwrapped the bandages around his head to reveal ... nothing. Rains' invisible man sets out on a campaign of terror before his footprints in the snow give him away and he's shot down.
David McCallum's invisible man was a decent fellow who worked with his wife to find a cure for his condition. The Invisible Man series first appeared as a 90-minute TV film in the spring of 1975. The film received good ratings, and a weekly series was announced for the fall. The series coincided with new technology, a combination of film and video," recalls creator Harve Bennett. "By today's standards it was very crude, but in 1975 it allowed us tremendous opportunities It was a very noble experiment, and I'm very proud of the series."
So is Melinda Fee, who played the wife of the Invisible man, Kate Westin. "I wish I had a nickel for every time I wished I could be invisible," laughs Fee. "It's the greatest theme of all time. Talking to an invisible David McCallurn was delicious. I'd practice a lot at home, jerking my body to simulate his grabbing my arm. Or cocking my head, listening to him talk, with my eyes focused on his direction. It's a skill that had to be learned." Kate Westin often pitched in to help her husband corner the bad guys. "1 was thrilled to land the role," Fee says. "Kate Westin came along just about the time Womens Lib was making headway. She represented what women were striving for: separate professions, equality, recognition of intelligence and education. I loved Kate's brightness, intuition and humor And I adored playing such a wide range of characters in disguises." Fee, however, was relieved that the series didn't follow the lead of the pilot movie.
"The pilot was geared more to the lurking Feds scrambling to steal the formula of invisibility. It had the proverbial car chase, ending in a huge crash-and-burn sequence. The series centered on the relationship of Daniel and Kate. We traveled outside of that dreary lab, and I loved the personal scenes with David. It showed that scientists did have private lives."
We'd often do a small piece of business over and over. It would take 75 takes at least. Forget acting! We were exhausted by the time the technical stuff was completed. It was frustrating and the cost was astronomical." Producer Robert ONeill agrees. "Because the mechanical and physical limitations there were many disappointments. At first, it sounded like The Invisible Man was going to be a lot of fun. I thought we'd have a tremendous action show. We also had David McCallum, who had been popular on The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and he wanted to recapture some of that magic.
Problem was, unless you have a really big budget, science fiction shows are hard to produce.
Networks generally don't want to pay the added expense for the technical things necessary. Back then, we used the blue screen process, which was very complex and time-consuming. It became a tremendous problem for the cameraman directors and crew, especially on such a tight budget."
Working with special effects was nothing new for O'Neill. He had previously produced the ESP series The Sixth Sense. "Steve Bochco had written the 90 minute Invisible Man film , and someone got the notion to make it into a series."
"By that time Bochco and Harve Bennett were busy on other things. Universal came after me and Leslie Stevens. We were the firemen they brought in at the ninth inning. Science fiction wasn't my forte, but since I had done Sixth Sense, Universal felt I could handle all of the trick things on Invisible Man."
The other challenge O'Neill had was the basic concept. "It was very frustrating because we were dealing with a very narrow parameter. Since David was supposed to be wearing a mask to hide his invisibility, we were faced with, 'How do you make a mask react wth sorrow, pain, grief and joy?' It wasn't that David, as a performer, wasn't being responsive to the audience. It was that when the mask came off, the joke was over. The audience is used to looking at someone's face.
How can you show emotions on the face of someone who is invisible? We also faced the problem of telling the audience where the invisible man was. We'd have him brushing up against furniture and bumping into potted plants He ended up as the c!umsiest guy in the world! We also found that invisibility made him invincible. Unless he was walking in the sand or snow, he was unbeatable. The very nature of the show defined the action because he was really a super man. It was hard to work in jeopardy. "The show never had a chance," claims story editor Seeleg Lester. "My objections were to the tenor of the plots, which approximated The Six Million Dollar Man. It was a shame because the invisibility theme had have been an intriguing element. Instead it was a devised used to capture a James Bond villain or an international terrorist. The original premise was subverted into ordinary melodrama with predictable plots. I asked for my release from the series before the year was over."
Melinda Fee, however, felt a special magic. "Sometimes we did get off the track with the hero and villains," she says, "and that did become predictable and boring. But the series had a lot of charm and wisdom."
As the series progressed, the humor flourished. As a guest on The Mike Douglas Show two weeks before The Invisible Man premiered, David McCallm commented with a hint of bewilderment, "We started out doing a very serious show, but it's turned into something of a comedy." The capper to the comedy turned out to be an episode titled Pin Money. Inept bank robbers with Frankenstein monster masks gave the invisible man some grief. The episode's writer, James Parriott, chuckles when he recalls the show. "The InvisibleMan was my baptism by fire," he says. "I was writing "T'he Six Million Dollar Man" for Harve Bennett when he was having trouble with the Invisible Man. They were three three weeks away from production and they were getting behind schedule. He asked me to pitch some script ideas, and I started writing. So we were writing them and shooting them fast and furious. "'Pin Money' turned out very funny. Toward the end, we felt that humor was working better than the other thing. But the premise of an invisible man is funny in itself. Look at the Chevy Chase film (Memoirs of an Invisible Man}. Rather than a spine-tingling drama, they made a comedy out of it. We realized that there was something very funny about invisible people."
The series was axed in January 1976 after 12 segments. Harve Bennett, who describes star David McCallum as "one of the nicest actors with whom I have ever worked," feels that perhaps the audiences weren't ready for McCallum as a lead.
"I loved David McCallum's work even before he did "The Man From UNCLE," Bennett says warmly. "David was also very caring, very considerate of the people who worked around him, very literate and very appreciative of material. He had been an enormous success as a supporting actor on U.N.C.L.E. He was the Mr. Spock on that show to Robert Vaughn's straight character. He added great color to the show. But when we put him in the role of a leading man on Invisible Man, it was conceivable that two things happened: First, people didn't want to see David as the leading man. They wanted him to be the 'color' man. Secondly, and this is it peculiar thing, we went in the face of an old saw in our TV industry. That is, British actors don't make it on TV as the leads. That was at the time. We felt the success of the Beatles had negated that old wives' tale."
Associate producer Richard Milton contends that McCallum was a scapegoat. "David got the blame when the network decided he was too foreign It was the usual crap. David was a fine, talented actor. The failure of The Invisible Man had nothing to do with him. The format of the show just didn't work. They never got the concept down."
"The ratings weren't very good, but that could have been the time slot," says James Parriott. "I respected David enormously and I thought he was well cast."
"David was a fine actor," says Robert O'Neill. "The format just didn't happen."
Melinda Fee believes the series fell victim to several factors. The competition on the other networks, preemptions and politics at the network," she says. "Ironically, right after we were canceled, the ratings jumped, We were catching on--and we were dead in the water." She has fond memories of acting with her co-star. "David was an absolute joy to work with," she says. He was inventive, smart and funny. Many times he'd be on the set working out a script or technical problem. It was if he really were Dr. Westin. He helped without stepping on anybody's toes. He was never late or demanding. The entire cast and crew loved him. David was also marvelous in the humorous scenes with that dry British wit."
Less than a year later, The Invisible Man returned (with the same production team) as The Gemini Man, starring Ben Murphy as a secret agent who can become invisible. "I was in Europe promoting The Invisible Man at the time," Fee recalls. "I never saw Gemini Man, but from what I understand, it was a direct rip-off of our show."
The Invisible Man hasn't faded entirely from TV screens. The series is occasionally rerun on cable and has enjoyed success in Europe "My real regret was that the show didn't survive longer," says Fee. "It was a wonderful experience. I'd give anything to do it again!"
David McCallum (Daniel) Born
1933 . The Scottish born actor was popular as secret agent Illya Kuryakin on The Man From UNCLE (1964- 1968). In the 1970.'s he starred in the British series Sapphire and Steel.
Melinda Fee (Kate): This Los Angeles born actress was busy in daytime TV in the 1970s ('The Guiding Light) and in TV movies of the 1980s (The Aliens Are Coming).
Craig Stevens (Carlson): Born 1918. Stevens is best known as TV's Peter Gunn ( 1958.- 1961 ). "Craig Stevens was a true gentleman" says Melinda Fee. "He had a dry wit, and he'd rnake subtle cracks which were appreciated by all."