Night #19: The Invisible Man (1933)


Directed By: James Whale

He’s invisible, that’s what’s the matter with him. If he gets the rest of them clothes off, we’ll never catch him in a thousand years.”

Well after The Island Of Lost Souls I thought I would carry on the HG Wells theme with a look at another adaptation of his masterworks with The Invisible Man. To be honest this has never been my favourite of the classic Universal horror flicks and I will now attempt to explain my blasphemy.

It’s a strange beast. LIke last night’s effort it feels more like a two-act movie and this one appears to pick up about halfway through a conventional movie (To be fair so does the book, but this cuts a whole load out) with the mysterious Griffin arriving at a village inn, scaring the locals and engaging in some mysterious experiments.

Griffin is kind of a dick as it turns out. We don’t actually learn until later that it’s because of a certain chemical he’s been using in his experiments, but for most of the running time we don’t know that (And I’m still not convinced). Though he wants to cure his ailment, Griffin also can’t wait to go out on a crime spree. So, you know, priorities.

This, too, is different from the book. Griffin advances from petty crime to get by to fanaticism as he realises he can become a supervillain if he’s invisible. The point is that without being seen Griffin can indulge in his more base urges without having to worry about the consequences. The movie blaming it on a chemical doing all the work kind of loses the point of that. But oh well. Griffin does stop proceedings to derail a train, which is a bit mean of him you have to admit.

For the time, the movie does well with the invisible effects. They’re simplistic sure, but hell I’ve seen worse ones recently and classic director James Whale knows exactly what he’s doing (He also made the outright classic Bride Of Frankenstein). It also has that thing that old movies did, where they have wacky comedy hijinks to offset everything else and that’s certainly the case here with the early scenes featuring a lot of mugging to the camera from the denizens at the Inn where Griffin finds himself.

Special mention should go to Claude Rains, who gives 95% of his performance as a disembodied voice. It’s an easy job for an actor I’m sure but he gives it his all and does well as the increasingly unhinged doctor who is both petty and downright vindictive, but it’s not enough to make this a total recommend from me. Sure it should be seen for its importance in cinema as should all of those early Universal movies, but it’s strangely empty as a movie, relying on its special effects to wow and stun.


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