The Invisible Man – Classic Horror Week

Time for a classic. The Invisible Man is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Invisible Man (1933) – Not Rated

“Scientist Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) terrorizes the British village of Ipping in this classic horror film. After a drug experiment gone awry, Griffin becomes invisible and must hide out in the local inn, his face completely bandaged. By the time Griffin confides in friends Dr. Kemp (William Harrigan) and Flora (Gloria Stuart), it’s too late — the drug has turned him into a homicidal maniac who must be hunted down.”

“Look, he’s all eaten away”

Dracula was supposed to be Lon Chaney (Sr.). He passed away in 1930 so the role went to Bela Lugosi, who had achieved fame in the play. Lugosi was supposed to be the monster in Frankenstein but turned it down because it was a non-speaking part (and required a ridiculous amount of time in the makeup chair). The role gave Karloff his big break. The Invisible Man was supposed to be Karloff but he turned it down because he would barely be seen in the movie and there were some pay disputes.

Claude Rains gets his big break here, even if it is mainly aural. His wonderful speaking voice, inflection and presence really make The Invisible Man a classic. In spite of this Universal ill used Rains. Once Rains fulfilled his contract, he went over to MGM where he had much better luck in such classics as The Sea Hawk, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Casablanca.

The heroine/damsel in distress Flora is played by a young Gloria Stuart. You young whippersnappers may know her as the old Rose in Titanic. She lived to a glorious 100, passing away in September of 2010. The Invisible Man was her second time working with director James Whale – her first being The Old Dark House.

H.G. Wells halfheartedly approved this version of his novel – enjoying it but disapproving of changing the amoral yet rational scientist into a lunatic. He did especially enjoy the performance of character actor Una O’Connor as Jenny Hall. The movie does take some liberties with the novel but not nearly so many as Island of Lost Souls (Island of Dr. Moreau) did, which Wells hated.

The Invisible Man is brilliantly directed by James Whale. The special effects are a marvel for the era, the performances are good if theatrical, Claude Rains is fantastic and the film is filled with a sly dark humor. The Invisible Man starts quickly and also never overstays its welcome at a slight hour and eleven minutes.

People Watch: John Carradine, who would himself become invisible in The Invisible Man’s Revenge, plays a villager suggesting ink here. Dwight Frye, Renfield in Dracula and Fritz in Frankenstein, only gets to briefly play a reporter here. Character actor extraordinaire Walter Brennan only plays a bicycle owner here but he would go on to win three Oscars for supporting roles in Come and Get It, Kentucky, and The Westerner.

Sequelitis: The Invisible Man is followed by The Invisible Man Returns (1940) w/ Vincent Price, The Invisible Agent (1942) w/ Peter Lorre, The Invisible Woman (1940) w/ Virginia Bruce and John Barrymore, and The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944) w/ John Carradine. These are not quality pictures but have their charms. The death knell of the Universal series was Abbott & Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951).