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30 October 2011

The Invisible Man (1933) [Horror Marathon] 32#

Directed by: James Whale
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Runtime: 71 Minutes

From the spectacular, H.G Wells is a fascinating Science-Fiction tale of a man’s achievement of turning invisible. The story is timeless and nothing short of a classic and the film should remain timeless forever I hope. “Frankenstein (1931)” director James Whale on the chair the film has great direction and flow alongside an eccentric and wonderful cast, including the debut of Claude Rains (who might I add has a great voice). It may not be full-blown horror but it is a classic piece of Sci-Fi horror filled with seemingly impossible effects for its time. 

A mysterious stranger covered in bandages wearing thick goggles arrives at an Inn for a roomin blizzard-like snow. We soon learn he is a doctor names Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) who has had an accident, which is having been turned invisible all over. Demanding to be left alone, he attempts to turn himself back to normal with experimenting with chemicals, until he is by the Innkeeper (Una O’connor) and gives her quite a scare. He left several months earlier while conducting a series of tests with a strange new drug called monocane. He returns to the laboratory of his mentor, Dr. Cranley (Henry Travers), where he reveals his secret to onetime partner Dr. Kemp (William Harrigan) and former fiancée Flora Cranley (Gloria Stuart). He is soon told to leave and begins to cause mayhem. Not soon after, Griffin begins to cause havoc and trouble in the world as he attempts to watch them attempt to stop him in his reign of terror.

Claude Rains was just spectacular despite being in bandages most of the time. Mostly due to his voice, he was brilliant. His voice created such a presence as people like Christopher Lee and Vincent Price would. Rains voice added to the mental and psychotic ways of the doctor as he talks of watching the world suffer, and my favourite line- “grovel at my feet!”  His voice in many scenes where he was rather psychotic was wonderfully humorous and full of tension.

The acting in the whole film was great and had a delightfully screwball eccentric feeling. First, you have the Innkeeper Mrs Hall played by Una O’Connor who was just wonderfully funny with her dramatic reactions. Even the police officer Bird played by Harry was a humorous role and the films comic relief. That is what is good about James Whale films, a good supporting cast. It adds to the mayhem and total atmosphere to the film. All the little characters here have eccentric and interesting personalities. 

One of the most impressive things about the film is the effects. Here we see effects that are still used today in operation. So how did they achieve the invisible man effect? Well, it went like this. When the Invisible Man had no clothes on, the effect was achieved with wires. In addition, as for when he had some clothes on or taking them off, Rains was covered in black velvet were ever he was going to appear invisible and a black screen was placed behind them. Then combining this shot with another shot of the location the scene took place in using a matte process. Now this is 1933, it is an impressive achievement and is something in the film that made it so exhilarating and got Universal good status again due to the depression.

The story is captivating, compelling and very fascinating. It shows the relentlessness and danger of Science, similar to how “The Fly” puts itself together. H.G Wells is an accomplished writer and his novel “The Invisible Man” distributed in 1897, is responsible for a very special creation. In mythology and folklore there has been cloaks and armours that give the ability of invisibility, but here Wells brings science to it. From seeing what kind of story he created, I am enthusiastic about checking out his books. Here is to a great science-fiction novelist. The story is greatly put together and the direction puts it to film perfectly. 

The direction from James Whale should be highly appreciated. Looking at his filmography at Rotten Tomatoes, five of his films have a 100% tomato-meter rating. That is out of the ones that have ratings In addition, his filmography consists of some of the greatest films of the 30’s and one of the most influential horror films of all time, being “Frankenstein”. Although he never seemed to consider himself a brilliant horror director, he achieved such great things and it is a shame he retired so early. The ne that have the ratings I am yet to see are “Show Boat” and “The Old Dark House”.

I think the story is a true classic that will never age just like films like “The Wizard of Oz”. It has some sort of timeless quality because it does not rely on pop culture or anything of the sort. It has wonderful humour, innovative effects and some great classic 1930’s performances. “The Invisible Man” is a classic Sci-Fi horror film that is thought provoking, mysterious and very exhilarating. 

My Rating: 9/10


  1. Great/good review. Makes me wanna see it more now. I like your mention of pop culture and how the effects were done ('cause that really was boggling my mind).

  2. Great review Thomas! I of course no the story of this but need to get round to watching it sometime because it sounds wonderful. Interesting fact about the effects! Keep up the good work droog!

  3. I literally just saw this for the first time a week or so ago. I agree that Rains had a great voice. Now also imagine a movie goer back in 1931 was that was still marveling at hearing any dialogue at all in a movie and imagine the impact it had.

    Not too many actors would have taken a part where their face is covered for almost the whole movie. Hugo Weaving did it recently in V for Vendetta, but I can't think of too many others.

    I do have to say that I could have done with fewer screeches from the female innkeeper. They were really penetrating.



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