Top positive review
The invisible man attacks!
on May 1, 2011
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.