Keeping with this month’s theme of Classic Horror films, we’re looking at The Invisible Man released in 1933 by Universal. Written by R.C. Sheriff, based on the H.G Wells novel of the same name and directed by legendary director James Whale. Having already discussed the other three of his classic horror films, Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, and the Bride of Frankenstein and never having seen this one I felt it was a fitting addition to this month’s roster.
The film opens with Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) wrapped in bandages arriving at The Lions Head Inn during a snow storm. He’s greeted with suspicion, as is common of rural townsfolk in horror films. But manages to secure lodgings from the inns owner operators Mr. Hall (Forrester Harvey) and his Mrs. Hall (Una O’Conner). After a not paying his bill, Mrs. Hall sends her husband to collect. When he tries Griffin becomes violent, attacking him for touching his scientific equipment and for the treatment he’s received since arriving, rumors and prying eyes. Mr. Hall becomes injured in the fight and his wife sends for the town constable. When he arrives Griffin goes full tilt crazy removing his wrappings revealing himself invisible. He attacks the men and sets to terrorizing the small town. Meanwhile Griffins former employer Dr. Cranley (Henry Tavers) and his former co-worker Dr. Kemp (William Harrigan) start looking into his disappearance at the behest of Griffins fiance Flora Cranley (Gloria Stuart). They learn he was working with a dangerous drug and toxin Monocaine that has the ability to draw color out of things, but less known that when injected drives the host mad. After tiring of terrorizing the small town Griffin visits his friend Dr. Kemp with plans to work together in ruling the world. The way he plans to achieve this is through murder as no one can stop an invisible murderer. He coerces Dr, Kemp forcing him to join him on a trip back to the Inn to retrieve his journals. At the inn the towns folk have gathered by the police to explain what happened. The police officer in charge believes that the whole thing was a hoax. This sets off Griffin, who murders him after retrieving his books. This sends the country into an uproar as the police try to find the invisible man. Dr. Cranley tries to get the police in time to warn them of Griffin and the drug but its too late and he learns of the policeman’s death. Feeling that Dr. Kemp has betrayed him Griffin states his plans to murder him before vanishing. Kemp seeks the aid of the police for protection, while Griffin now the Invisible Man’s reign of terror continues.
While the film is well acted featuring Claude Rains and Gloria Stuart, two actors that I simply adore. I still can’t bring myself to like this film and I feel it to be the weakest of the Universal Classics. This stems from the films ending, so SPOILER, as Griffin lays dying in the hospital, we’re supposed to feel bad for him. It tries to be a moving scene with Flora there as he dies and becomes re-visible. My issue is that while only a handful of murders happen on-screen his final kill count is around 122 and were suppose to feel bad for him. Oh, it’s not his fault he was driven mad by the invisibility serum. I don’t buy that, he commits terrible acts that includes the murder of a close friend and he’s the victim? Nope, can’t get behind that.
The effects are passable for the time. While the strings literally show at times the invisibility reveal is well done and very impressive. So that with the inclusion of a car explosion I did enjoy the technical side of the film far better than that of the story its self.
Final thoughts, blah. While the cast does a respectable job I couldn’t really warm up to any of them and the over acting does get tiresome. While I can see how this film is a sci-fi/horror classic it’s not one for me. This could have been different I suppose if they wouldn’t have tried to make Griffins character sympathetic by having him driven insane and kept closer to the book here, where he was insane to start with. I don’t see myself recommending this to anyone but already established fans of the earlier horror films. So The Invisible Man gets a depressing 4.5/10.