Dr. Tom Merrinoe (Philip Abbott) is an intelligent man, a scientist employed by Stoneman Institute of Mathematics. There he runs a super-secret supercomputer holding “the sum total of all human knowledge.”
Merrinoe’s computer is visited one day by General Swayne (Harold J. Stone) and Colonel Macklin (Dennis McCarthy), who want to use it to check the fuel estimates they’ve made for an experimental rocket launch. The computer’s answer is different from what they’ve calculated, but they decide to trust it, assuming the difference comes from human error.
That night, Tom’s son Timmie (Richard Eyer) begins asking questions about the computer. Timmie is quickly bored by his answers, and is bored even further by the night’s fractions practice. Consulting his trusty computer for an answer as to how to increase his son’s interest in math, Tom winds up helping Timmie make a new friend: a robot from the Stoneman Institute.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, Dr. Merrinoe’s computer has become a little too intelligent and may have been deceiving them all with its advice. Herman Hoffman directs 1957’s The Invisible Boy, in which Robby the Robot of Forbidden Planet fame makes a return to the screen.
The Invisible Boy has plenty of potential to be an engaging sci-fi flick, full of excitement and futuristic technologies. Fans of Forbidden Planet tuning in for this film from their DVD or Blu disc’s special features, or simply because the of the Robby the Robot connection, should keep their expectations moderate.
It’s a film full of missed opportunities, but there is still some fun to be had. The Invisible Boy is most fun to watch as an artifact of the ’50s, with its paranoid perspective on technology, its talking supercomputer, its aspects of invisibility and time travel, and its eventual “good vs. evil” fight.
The opening scenes in which Tom explains the computer to Swayne and Macklin are intriguing and should immediately hook the attention of any fan of the sci-fi genre.
The “Invisible Timmie” scenes were also some of my favorites — the young boy plays tricks on people, scares his parents by slurping-ly, invisibly eating his soup at their dinner table without first announcing his presence, and later spies on them. These scenes of invisibility add some comic relief to the film, which takes on a darker tone once the true nature of the supercomputer’s personality (and evil plan) is revealed.
The Invisible Boy will always be remembered more as “Robby the Robot’s second film” than a legitimate sci-fi classic, but it’s not a bad watch. You may as well give it a look if you’ve got it on DVD or Blu as a special feature. The score: 3/5