Directed by James Whale [Other horror films: Frankenstein (1931), The Old Dark House (1932), Bride of Frankenstein (1935)]
As far as Universal horror goes, The Invisible Man stands tall as a strong film. In fact, I think it’s one of the best – the story is quick-paced, the special effects are amazing even to this day, and the movie is just so damn fun.
It’s amazing just how much personality Claude Rains puts into his character of the Invisible Man. One of the drugs that allows him to become invisible also chips away at his sanity, and when he’s screaming about creating invisible armies after selling his secrets to the highest bidder, or robbing banks and throwing the money around (Money Money Money Money Money!) or causing train derailments just because he can, you know he’s lost it, and Rains gives the character so much, which is a big reason why the film is stellar.
Another is simply the design – obviously, when he’s invisible, there’s not much design there (though I’ll touch on the special effects in a second), but during the opening, when he’s in the hat and long-coat, wrapped with surgical bandages and wearing those glasses, it’s such an iconic look. The opening as a whole is A+ material – a lively inn going quiet as a mysterious bandaged fellow comes in from the snow. Great look, great opening.
And those special effects. I’m a big movie fan (which may go without saying), but when it comes to how films are made, I’ve got nothing. I don’t know much about how some effects are done, how some shots are filmed, any of that stuff. I’m not a big behind-the-scenes guy, in short. All I can say for certainty is that the effects in this film from 1933 amaze me – it looks so damn good throughout the whole film. Every time I see this movie, I’m so impressed by what a movie of this age was able to do.
I said before Claude Rains did a fantastic job, and he really did – it’s no doubt in my mind that Rains’ performance is one of the reasons I think the movie is as good as it is. He played a character losing his sanity fantastically, and I just loved it. We only see his face for a couple of seconds, but he made this movie his bitch, as the kids say.
Others have to be mentioned, though. It’s not even the larger characters, such as those played by Gloria Stuart (The Old Dark House, Secret of the Blue Room, and Titanic), William Harrigan, and Henry Travers. They all do fine, sure, but it’s performances by Una O’Conner and E.E. Clive that gave this movie more spirit. E.E. Clive (Bride of Frankenstein and Dracula’s Daughter) is a classic, and his line “He’s all eaten away,” comes to mind often, as does the shrieks of Una O’Connor, which always gets me cracking up. While she’s been in plenty of other films, I see her face and hear her voice and immediately remember her role in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), which is one of the best non-horror films in history.
Because of it’s quick pace and lack of any tedious portions (which is something that, as good as they are, movies like Frankenstein and Dracula can’t honestly boast), The Invisible Man is a fantastically digestible and fun movie. I’ve loved it ever since I first saw it, and I find the Invisible Man an iconic character with an iconic design, and I really find this movie pretty much perfect.
7 thoughts on “The Invisible Man (1933)”