Classic horror films are brilliant! In the days before computer effects and an audience’s need for gore and large amounts of blood, directors were challenged to find different ways to entertain their viewers with great stories filled with suspense. In Universal Picture’s The Invisible Man (1933), director James Whale brought to the screen one of the most challenging film villains of all time. And he did it beautifully.
In a small English village, a mysterious man (Claude Rains) appears one night, requesting a room. The innkeeper and his wife (Una O’Connor) see that his entire face is covered with bandages and become suspicious. The man demands to be left alone, and when he is continuously interrupted, he begins throwing things around the room and creates a panic. The local policeman is called and when he, along with a mob of men, comes to the room, the man begins stripping his clothes to reveal that he is invisible. The invisible man attacks the people and creates havoc as he escapes the small community.
The invisible man is really Dr. Griffin. He works with Dr. Cranley (Henry Travers) and Dr. Kemp (William Harrigan) in a research lab. Griffin has been searching for his invisibility formula, and now that he has succeeded he is looking for the antidote. Griffin is in love with Dr. Cranley’s daughter, Flora (Gloria Stuart), and he went to the small village to spare her from having to see him in this state. Dr. Cranley, however, has discovered that Griffin is using a chemical that could make him violently insane. As Griffin begins to become more and more unstable, those closest to him try to help him before it is too late.
James Whale made a name for himself with the success of Frankenstein (1931). He was a wonderful filmmaker whose non-horror movies were often overlooked. Heavily influenced by German expressionism, his style worked in the horror genre. Of all the Universal horror movies of the 1930’s, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and Bride Of Frankenstein (1935) are probably the three most respected and admired. There is no coincidence that Whale was the director on all three.
Of course Whale alone isn’t responsible for the triumph of The Invisible Man. This film boasted some of the most groundbreaking special effects in the history of film. John P. Fulton, Frank D. Williams and John J. Mescall were the geniuses behind the visual appearance of the invisible man. Their hard work and creative ability paved the way for many followers and are responsible for much of the success for The Invisible Man. If the effects aren’t believable, than this story becomes hard to enjoy. Luckily that is not the case with this film.
Claude Rains is an immensely popular actor whose face and voice are easily recognizable. It is somewhat of a surprise that The Invisible Man was his first “real” film performance, at the age of 44. It is said that his screen test was overheard from another room, and his unique voice was exactly what would be needed for The Invisible Man. Although his face is only seen for a few moments, The Invisible Man launched Rains’ career as one of the most memorable and prolific actors of all time.
The Invisible Man is not an overly suspenseful movie, but because it boasts such an enjoyably story it is easily appealing to watch. The story has the dark tones of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but Whale ads plenty of offbeat humor to keep things light and easy going. After all, it is hard to know whether you want Dr. Griffin to be caught or cured.Back to Home for More Reviews