Quick Hit: The most forgotten and yet the most humorous of the Universal monster movies.
I wrote before about how the Universal Monsters were the first Cinematic Universe. It included the Mummy, the Wolfman, Frankenstein, and Dracula. But what a lot of people forget (including me) is that the Invisible Man was included in that. I always forget that he is included with the monsters because he is the one that is a full human. It all started in 1933 with today’s movie, The Invisible Man starring stage actor Claude Raines. After its success, sequels like The Invisible Man Returns, The Invisible Woman, and The Invisible Agent (to capitalize on the war effort) were made to varying degrees of success.
The story, based on the famous (and terrific) novel by H.G. Wells, follows scientist Dr. Jack Griffin, who has discovered a way to make himself invisible. The reaction though has a disastrous side effect – it slowly causes him to go mad. To reveal us to him, he is consistently covered in bandages and big heavy overcoats, hats, and gloves. But it is only a moment or two when he strips off the coverings that he disappears before our eyes.
The effects here, particularly for 1933 are really astounding. Raines was often shot in a black velvet suit against a black background in order to give the effect that parts of him were invisible. There were also moments were a special mask was used. It’s really, really cool stuff to see, because you can only slightly see the effects happening. This only heightens the moments of terror and humor that abound.
Speaking of the humor, this movie is really funny. Part of it is the dialogue – “Here we go gathering nuts in May, nuts in May” while pants chase a woman down the street may be one of the most best comedy moments in a non-comedy movie. Along with that, there are the performances of the side actors. The policeman is hilarious in his complete acceptance of his situation. It almost makes you wonder if he’s someone that could have been transferred from the other horror films of the time period, and now at the point of seeing a man turn invisible, he’s just like “Another day at the office”.
The best part of the movie, despite having a solid plot that is continually echoed throughout the series, is Raines’s performance. As a classically trained stage actor, Raines is easily able to construe both the gravity of his own situation and the depths of his own madness using only his voice. His monologue about essentially being a god amongst men is a terrific example of using movement to emphasize your words, along with being tremendously spoken with authority. You believe him instantly, despite the fact that part of your mind knows that this guy isn’t invincible or anything – you just can’t see him. Though his powers pale a bit compared to the other movie monsters, he’s a welcome inclusion.
The Invisible Man is a prime example of a great classic horror film. Check it out when you can!
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
For more like this, check out:
The Mummy (2017)
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"