Revisiting The Invisible Man (1933): Universal Horror Monsters Retrospective Part 5/7

Alice Oscura, Featured Writer

Plot: Dr Jack Griffin is a chemist who has discovered the secret of invisibility. However, he doesn’t seem to realise that the drug is also causing him to go slowly but surely homicidally insane.

Background: The Invisible Man is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by “The Father of Science Fiction” H.G. Wells which was first published in 1897. Wells is also known for its predecessors “The Time Machine” (1895) and “The Island of Dr Moreau” (1896) and both have also been adapted into films. Wells was known as a futurist and worked on a number of prophetic futuristic novels including something resembling the World Wide Web.

Look ma, no head!

Production for the film got off to a bit of a rocky start when their first-choice actor for the Invisible Man, none other than Mummy and Frankenstein star Boris Karloff, withdrew from the project due to too many salary cuts by the producer. The original director Cyril Gardener also resigned and was replaced by James Whale. Sounds familiar? Think Frankenstein. Filming was also interrupted close to the end by a fire which damaged an exterior set. Imagine despite all of these hurdles we have a remarkable work of art that has now joined other horror films such as Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) in the United States Film Registry for preservation.

Review: The Invisible Man was a stunning, superb piece of cinematic material that at the time was something new and refreshing to audiences. The story itself is bizarre and outlandish but this is what makes the film so attractive. It used groundbreaking film recording techniques, which unfortunately made the actor Claude Rains aka the Invisible Man super uncomfortable due to his claustrophobia, and wires to move multiple objects around the scenes indicating the presence of the Invisible Man without clothes.

Oh my. Look at that. They started construction on the Golden Gate Bridge

Claude Rains is just incredible in this film. Given the fact that we never really see his face (until the very end) and often don’t see him at all, it falls on the actor to create the character pretty much by voice alone, and what a voice! Fun fact: this was Rains’ first American screen role after his debut in 1920 British silent film Build Thy House.

The atmosphere at the beginning of the film is super intense with an air of mystery surrounding this stranger whose identity remains completely hidden. The character is finally revealed to be Dr Jack Griffin, a chemist whose experiment turned him invisible, but the hitch is that he cannot figure out how to reverse the process. Griffin barely manages to control his tightly wound rage and turmoil at his failure and he finally becomes totally unhinged.

You know Kemp, I always thought you were a snivelling cretin

The Invisible Man then becomes a representation of total insanity and causes utter chaos with his violent behaviour, including pushing two men off a cliff and derailing a train for fun. His totally delusional announcement of making an invisible army to rule the world and have them grovel at his feet shows you just how twisted he has become, but one is left to wonder whether or not the fictitious drug called monocaine only enhanced an underlying or inhibited madness and obsession that lay buried deep within his psyche.

Griffin also seems to be a complete narcissist as well because he’s all but forgotten about his fiancé Flora (Gloria Stuart) until her name is mentioned, and then he behaves as though she were a distant memory in his judgment-clouded mind.

FLORA: It’s okay Jack. You know I love you for what’s on the inside JACK: Oh poppycock

But then there is the flip side to that where during the Invisible Man’s manic episodes he does the absolutely weirdest and most hilarious actions. When Griffin is first confronted by the policemen at the inn he basically does a striptease by throwing his dressings and garments all over them, much to their horror. Their reaction is totally priceless! Upon escaping he grabs a poor old man’s hat and throws it over the side of a bridge, then steals a bicycle and pedals away singing “Here we go gathering nuts in May.” There’s also another hysterical scene where the police force fails in their elaborate attempt to capture him and Griffin rips off one of the policeman’s trousers, climbs over a wall, puts them on and begins singing the same song once again, almost giving a poor woman a heart attack to see a pair of trousers hopping and skipping down the road on its own!

The epic balance of horror and dark humor depicted seals my verdict on this film. The bottom line is that The Invisible Man is exciting, scary, funny and pretty brutal for its time.

Alice’s Score: 8.5 out of 10

For part 4 of my Universal Horror Monsters Retrospective and my review of Bride of Frankenstein you can click here.

39AFB96D-4DEF-4DED-8DFE-3400E758CE9B Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump.

I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. You can find me as Dark Alice Reviews on Facebook, my Instagram is alice_oscura and my Twitter handle is @lise_veliz2. For more on me you can click here.