-Written by Robert O’ Doherty
After directing Frankenstein in 1931 for Universal Pictures, James Whale would be back in the directors chair two years later to create another horror classic; The Invisible Man. The movie was in development hell for some time, and Boris Karloff was originally meant to dawn the bandages and shades, but Karloff and the studio couldn’t come to an agreement when it came to a salary, so Karloff left the project. When Whale jumped aboard the ship, he casted Claude Rains as the lead; a lead who’d have his face hidden until the last scene in the film, only lasting mere seconds. Whale was looking for an actor with a voice, not a face and Rains was the man for that, due to his well spoken, intellectual voice.
The opening shot is a dark, cold and snowy scene with a strange figure walking in it. The figure walks into into an inn and demands things; such as a bed, food and other comforts. This man is covered in bandages and sports a fake nose while covering the window to his soul with dark shades. This is how the Invisible Man is introduced to us. It’s eerie and unpleasant and every drunk to the owner senses something is off.
The Invisible Man is not a slow moving film, within minutes, the creepy stranger reveals himself in an aggressive manner – soon after, the police get involved. We discover that the stranger is a chemist, Dr Jack Griffin(Claude Rains). He took shelter at the inn so he could find a way to make himself visible again before returning to his love, Flora Cranley(Gloria Stuart) and his fellow ”team”, Dr Cranley(Henry Travers) and Dr Kemp(William Harrigan). Of course the sheltering doesn’t last long when the police arrive to arrested a man that they can’t even see, which leads into a comical scene where Griffin begins to terrorize the public. The humor is dark at times and plays extremely well at the right moments. Thanks to John P. Fulton, the ground breaking effects put this film on the map. Even today, these effects still hold up; what an achievement!
As Griffin falls into madness and his lust for power grows, he still needs assistance from Dr Kemp. Griffin explains that he needs to do certain things or he’ll be caught, like; avoiding people while he is digesting food after meals or making sure all the dirt from his fingernails has been removed. Prowling in the fog, rain or snow is a major no-no for obvious reasons.
While the eye candy is fixated on the special effects, I found myself being fascinated with the Invisible Man’s look; weird saying that! Griffin has three key looks when he is hiding his invisibility; firstly when he arrives, secondly when he hibernating in the room; this look has a madman style to it; with it’s fake nose and patches of hair sticking out of the bandages – and the third when he arrives at Dr Kemp’s house. The third look is the iconic look we all know. The way the bandages surround Griffin’s face, it almost looks like a pair of flapping lips or a mustache; it’s genius!
I love when madness engulfs the Invisible man. It gets to the point where he claims the moon fears him. But even when he strikes a serious claim, he has a comedic side to him; one scene in particular depicts him chasing a woman, only wearing pants, singing ”Nuts in May”. It’s hysterical.
There’s not much to dislike about this film, except Jenny Hall, who runs the inn, played by Una O’ Connor. Every scene this chick is in, she screams the whole fucking house down. She sounds like a bag of cats being beaten off a cows ass. Also, the film is not very long, only clocking in at 71 minutes. I kinda hoped for a little more development with Griffin and Flora.
If you want to start getting acquainted with the Universal Monsters, start with The Invisible Man. It’s aged amazingly in terms of effects, the characters are great and some scenes will have you rolling in laughter.