After rewatching an enjoying the masterful original The Invisible Man I thought I'd give one or two of the sequels a shot. I vaguely remembered liking The Invisible Man Returns although the only specifics that stuck in my memory were a couple of cool special effects shots and Vincent Price in the lead role. As it turns out, those special effects shots were as cool as I remembered (they both involve the see-through guy being rendered visible by clouds of smoke), but Price is unfortunately not anywhere close to the peak of his powers here. Understandable, since this was several years before he began appearing in horror movies regularly and refined his screen persona into the immortal one we know and love today. He's actually much more of a bland romantic lead in the part - even his voice, which I consider to be one of the all-time great movie voices, hasn't developed into what it would become yet.
The Invisible Man Returns is lacking in other respects compared to the original, too. Director Joe May doesn't have the mastery over tone that James Whale does, so his sequel seems lumpy and silly by comparison. And the muddled nature of the lead character - is he crazy? Is he a hero? A villain? - has a reckless quality that flies in the face of Claude Rains' uniquely sympathetic antihero in the first movie.
There are some things to like, though, beyond those cool smokey effect shots. The rest of the special effects are good too (I especially liked the shot of the dust-caked ladder being climbed by the Invisible Man). And I feel I should single out Cecil Kellaway who puts in a much-too-good-for-this-movie performance as the implacable detective hot on his unseen suspect's trail.