Among classic horror movies, "The Invisible Man" has never really loomed as large as Dracula, Frankenstein or the Wolf-Man. However, this classic adaptation of H.G. Wells' sci-fi novel is still a pretty entertaining affair, with an increasingly crazed Claude Rains chewing the scenery with invisible teeth. I just wish they hadn't added a token love interest.
A strange man (Rains) arrives at a hotel in Iping, wrapped up in goggles, bandages, scarves, and heavy clothes. He spends most of his time hidden away in his room, doing odd scientific experiments -- but after a fight with his landlord, he reveals that he is actually invisible. Up next: After shedding his clothes and bandages, he goes on a rampage through the town... still totally unseen.
The invisible man -- aka Dr. Jack Griffin -- escapes to the house of Dr. Kemp, a former coworker whom he turns into his frightened "partner." Just like anybody who's turned invisible would, Griffin plans a reign of terror over the entire world. As the police begin a country-wide hunt for a man they're unable to see, there is only one way that Griffin can be drawn out...
"The Invisible Man" isn't quite as well-known as Universal's vampires, monsters and werewolves, mainly because he's just an average guy who turned invisible. It's still a freaky idea, though -- not only is Griffin unable to become visible again, but ordinary people are being tormented by a criminal that could literally be anywhere. Except a paint factory.
And classic director James Whale manages to insert plenty of ghastly moments, such as a crazily laughing Griffin removing his false nose and goggles, turning his bandaged face into a skull-like mask. And he maintains some of the weird humor from H.G. Wells' original story, which you pretty much expect from a person who's invisible -- at one point Griffin dances down the street, wearing only a pair of pants and singing "Here we go gathering nuts in May!"
The downside? Some of the deviations from Wells' original story weaken the movie badly, especially the inclusion of Gloria Stuart as Griffin's girlfriend. All she does is cry, mope and make doe eyes. Seriously, what was the point of that character?
Fortunately, Claude Rains manages to single-handedly carry the entire movie -- he's grandiose, insanely malicious, and chews the scenery with unseen teeth. He's a little hammy at times, mainly because his face is invisible for 99% of the movie, but it's a truly spellbinding performance. There are a lot of good smaller performances among the villagers and the police, although that landlady's grating screech makes me wish the Invisible Man had bandaged HER head.
"The Invisible Man" isn't quite as memorable as the other Universal monster flicks, but it's still an effective piece of sci-fi horror -- and Claude Rains puts in a great performance without showing his face.
The Invisible Man is one of the most impressive Universal "monster" films of the 1930s, a motion picture masterpiece still as vibrant and engaging now as it was in 1933. It is also a representative of the rarest of movies - one which succeeds much better than the novel upon which it was based. Don't get me wrong - H.G. Wells was a brilliant writer, one of the two founding fathers of science fiction, but The Invisible Man left me as cold as the invisible man must have felt running around naked in the bitterly cold countryside. The invisible man is thoroughly unlikable in the novel, much more so than he is here. A running time of just 71 minutes and a brilliant tour de force of a film debut by Claude Raines make Jack Griffin a fascinating albeit quite mad character who never completely turns the viewer off with his misguided antics. Of course, the sword cuts both ways. In the novel, one gets a much deeper appreciation of the pain and struggle the man faces trying to restore himself to visibility. In the movie, the transition to raving megalomaniac occurs much more quickly, with several palliative dashes of humor thrown into the mix early on.
There isn't that much to the story, really. A man wrapped in bandages and clothed in a long overcoat, glasses, and hat suddenly enters the Lion's Head pub and inn one snowy night demanding a room. He makes it very clear that he wants privacy and soon begins performing chemical experiments. The fellow is a scientist named Jack Griffin (Claude Rains), a young chap who, after five years of private work, discovered the secret of invisibility; unfortunately for him, he has yet to figure out an antidote, as becomes evident when he begins to shed his clothes and bandages - yep, the title was right, he really is the invisible man. Now most fellows, were they to become invisible, would probably run right out and try to see the girl next door in her birthday suit, but Griffin is different. That special ingredient in the potion tends to make a person just a little bit insane, and Griffin has already begun forming plans to get filthy rich and make the world grovel at his invisible feet. His surly attitude and just plain weirdness soon get him evicted, and soon his secret is out. He has a jolly good time playing pranks on local villagers, but his pranks soon turn to mass murder. The police dragnet is fun to watch (it isn't easy to catch an invisible man), but the movie takes a continually darker tone as the inevitable conclusion approaches. I am of the belief that the story of The Invisible Man really doesn't teach any sort of lesson with it, although others are certainly free to voice their own interpretations of the story. Griffin is just too disagreeable to teach me anything (apart from the ubiquitous "don't meddle in God's domain" thing).
The special effects in the film are actually quite amazing. Many of them are rather simple but well-done, and the central bits featuring clothes walking around on their own serve the story very well indeed. There is one scene featuring a pair of pants skipping down the road accompanied by Griffin singing the kind of ditty a madman might be prone to sing that is absolutely priceless. Alongside Dracula and Frankenstein, The Invisible Man completes the threesome of truly must-see 1930s Universal "monster" films, even though we all know it's really pure science fiction and not horror.
on July 7, 2003
Though this marvelous film was made 70 years ago, it holds up beautifully today. The primary reason is the riveting performance by Claude Rains, who is seen on screen full face for only a few seconds at the conclusion of the piece. His voice virtually carries the picture and his performance is dynamic, comic and quite masterful. In contrast, the weakness of the film are the supporting players, with the exception of those in the British tavern.
Gloria Stuart, recently "re-discovered" in her role as the elderly Rose in Cameron's "Titanic," is singularly awful in her role as the Invisible Man's (Jack's) girlfriend. Though beautiful, she overacts and puts on a childish display in every scene. She adds virtually nothing to the narrative except a pretty face. William Harrigan plays Jack's partner and reluctant accomplice and he is also dreadful and theatrical. Henry Travers is excellent and pay special attention to catch an uncredited Walter Brennan in a brief speaking role in the tavern.
The script is excellent and provides many hilarious moments. The special effects are similarly good and leagues ahead of their time. Though a trifle awkward in spots, one must remember this is 1933 and the effects must have stunned and delighted audiences of that era. This is a must-see classic movie, made memorable by the riveting concept and a seering performance by Claude Rains.
on June 21, 2003
The original INVISBLE MAN is now 70 years old, and obviously it shows some age by being a bit static and talky. Overall, however, I was pretty impressed with how enjoyable it is in light of today's action movies. The film was directed by James Whale, who made "Frankenstein" and was the subject of "Gods and Monsters."
Claude Rains, in his first major role, plays a scientist who meddles with invisibility. His experiments work, except now he can't reverse the results, and he's slowing going mad. Gloria Stuart (old Rose from Titanic) plays his love interest who tries to talk him back to sanity. The special effects still work pretty well - apparently the invisiblity scenes were filmed by having Rains in a black velvet body stocking and filmed in front of a black velvet backdrop (an early precursor to our bluescreen special effects). Some of the acting is pretty hammy but doesn't detract too much from the main story. Finally, it's a surprisingly humorous movie - I laughed out loud more than once! Highly recommended for fans of early horror films and classic films in general.
on April 6, 2002
The Invisible Man is a great flim! It stars Claude Rains as thne invisible one, Griffin. And during the end of the middle his partner calls the police while his is staying in his house. Then Griffin promised to kill him the next day at 10:00p.m. And that is a PROMISE! I wont say anything more. People would say why would he go mad? He only turned invisible but during the movie it says in the chemicals he uses there is a drug and mixed with the other chemicals it abvously creates invisibility. But the drug can hurt people drive them a little mad. This happens to Griffin. This was found by anciet times when they used this drug and the other assitiant points out thats why they have not used it since. This movie has an ending that makes you say how was there two sequels to The Invisible Man unless the invisible man is not Griffin or there was a miricle but otherwise this movie is TERRIFIC. So I highly reccomend this movie to anyone who spots a good eye on it. So may I end this review in:
This Movie Was Terrific
on February 12, 2002
James Whale was one of Universal's best directors in the 1930s; hell, let's just say he was one of Hollywood's best directors. Besides "Frankenstein" and "The Bride of Frankenstein," he also directed this first sound adaptation of H.G. Wells's thriller. And in it he provided a Hollywood debut for English actor Claude Rains. Rains is marvelous as the Invisible One (as he's identified in the opening credits), a fabulously over-the-top performance reveling in the character's madness and wit. Rains is aptly partnered by a young Gloria Stuart (who went on to play the old lady in James Cameron's "Titanic" about 60 years later, as well as lead an extraordinarily interesting life as an artist and a friend to the wonderful writer MFK Fisher, but I digress!) and Henry Travers (aka the angel wannabe Clarence in Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life.") But the real scene stealer in this thoroughly entertaining, masterfully paced film is the great Una O'Connor as the Inn-keeper's wife. Just watching this woman's face is one of the great delights of going to the movies, even at home. Good screen adaptation from the writers and excellent camera work, but it's Whale's show and the direction displays all his trademark creepy atmospherics and sly wit. A real gem, and with marvelous DVD bonus features to boot!
on October 31, 2001
Most people balk at the prospect of sitting down for a 68 year old film. It can sometimes be an academic exercise. Not so with "The Invisible Man," one of the finest Universal fright flicks.
I'll briefly explain why I think this film has held up particularly well: 1) Much praise has been given to Claude Rains performance, and it is totally justified. Rains is perfectly convincing as the raving scientist. 2) There is a lot of humor in this film. Sure, some of it is very broad and hasn't aged well. But most of it is fairly subtle and still works. 3) The special effects... There are a few shots that couldn't be improved much even today. And just about all the effects remain convincing. For 1933, this film was WAY ahead of it's time.
As with the other films in Universal's initial batch of horror classics released to DVD (all available in the 8 disc boxset Classic Monsters Collection), this DVD features quality extras. The main features are the running commentary track from film historian Rudy Behlmer, and a 35 minute documentary that details the making of the film (as well as providing a good overview of director James Whale's career).
on September 27, 2001
Jack Griffin is a brilliant scientist who has some ideas that his peers think dangerous and unethical. Not one to be dissuaded, Griffin successfully experiments on himself, becoming the first human to be rendered invisible. Unfortunately, prolonged invisibility--or possibly the invisibility drug itself, as his peers had warned--begins to deteriorate Griffin's mind, and he soon becomes a power-hungry killer bent on revenge.
Though rarely seen in the film due to the special effects and costuming demanded by the part, Claude Rains does a dynamic job in the role of Jack Griffin. His gravelly voice and vocal histrionics serve perfectly in delivering to the audience Griffin's descent into emotional hell. And James Whale's direction is as brilliant as ever, creating the appropriate mood and atmosphere as we follow a madman's ravaging of the English countryside.
One of only four Horror films directed by James Whale for Universal, THE INVISIBLE MAN is a work that some historians and critics regard as a veiled allegory of the director's own publically covert homosexuality. While FRANKENSTEIN and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN also depict societal outcasts in a sympathetic light, the eponymous character in THE INVISIBLE MAN is a character in a situation that is most like Whale's own--a respected genius in the public eye, but a person whose true self must remain invisible.
Even if you don't buy that particular historical perspective, THE INVISIBLE MAN still works as an allegory of any societal pariah. We all have traits that we sometimes hide from others; we all have masks that we wear. And at the times when we dwell on the things we keep hidden behind those masks, we may feel just a little "invisible" to others. So in watching THE INVISIBLE MAN, Jack Griffin becomes a metaphor for our own private identities, and we care about what happens to him. As with many of Whale's films, this pathos for the protagonist becomes a skeleton on which hangs the overall plot.
Compared to contemporary movies, the special effects in this film might seem a little dated. But the script is good, the directing is great, and the acting is superb. Anyone who enjoyes a well-crafted movie certainly won't be disappointed.
on May 10, 2001
Outstanding 1933 filming of H.G. Wells' novel is directed brilliantly by James Whale (hot off the success of FRANKENSTEIN and THE OLD DARK HOUSE). However major credit must go to Claude Rains as the mysterious Dr. Jack Griffin who experiments with invisibility potions and is slowly driven to acts of murder and mayhem. Ironically it was Rains' first performance, being completely unseen until the very end of the film, and the role that catapulted him to stardom. How appropriate though, isn't that what happened to Karloff, Lugosi, and Chaney? Titanic's Gloria Stuart is also a thrill to see in her earlier years. I don't need to remind you horror fans of this, but the special effects (even for 1933) are nothing short of incredible and seem far ahead of their time. This movie is so great, you have to see it to believe it. It's suspenseful, atmospheric, has great acting by a great cast, and is a definite worthy addition to any old Horror Film collector. DVD contains a fascinating documentary "Now You See Him: The Invisible Man Revealed!" by Rudy Behlmer, who also narrates the film commentary. Great classic film, not only for the Horror/Sci-Fi Genre, but for all time - BUY IT NOW!
on November 18, 2000
For those of you who have read my reviews, you may ask why a hard core English Major who sticks to Marlowe, Shakespeare, Milton, Hawthorne, and Dickens finds this old horror movie so important. I am glad to answer this. In this modern movie world of special effects and gore, I feel the true meaning of horror has been lost. This movie is an obvious example of the true meaning of horror. Rains' character was a good and decent man who could not stay behind the line of 'this far and no further.' (Resembles Marlowe's techniques.) He crossed the line and made himself invisible and was unable to reverse the formula. (This passes plausibility, but with all of this film's merits, it is easy to overlook.) For a while Rains actually has fun with his power, and the events are very comical. (Not unlike Marlowe's Dr. Faustus.) However, the invisibility is NOT what presents us with horror. What DOES fill us with horror is the degeneration of this good and decent man into a psychotic killer obsessed with power. His former friend Kemp turns into an enemy (and we can scarcely blame him). Even Rains' former employer (who wants to help him) is expressed by Rains as having 'the mind of a tapeworm.' Eventually, Rains' character goes on a mindless and random killing spree. So Rains has gone from being an intelligent decent man, to a prankster, to one who alienates his friends, to one who rebukes people who want to help him, to killing randomly and mindlessly. The effects are simple and do not overshadow the true horror of this. I tip my hat to Claude Rains for displaying one of the most frightening things so well. (The gradual degeneration of a human being.)