Svengoolie presents … The Invisible Man (1933)
Based on the HG Wells novel, The Invisible Man from 1933 was such a remarkable and memorable film that it has ingrained itself into our cultural lexicon and spawned dozens of remakes and sequels. Perhaps not as well-known as vampires or Dracula himself, The Invisible Man does have a reputation and a movie legacy all its own. When the Kevin Bacon film “Hollow Man” was produced in 2000, even THAT movie tried to emulate and draw useful elements from The Invisible Man. I like this movie and the performance of Claude Rains.
Claude Rains plays the invisible man, a doctor who is slowly driven mad by an invisibility process. Rains was a veteran actor and starred in a memorable role in Casablanca after he earned his stripes in movies like this. The movie begins with a mysterious man arriving at a hotel where he declares his desire to be alone. I can only assume that at this point in the movie, the mad doctor is not yet mad, but a man seeking a solution to the formula that has doomed him to invisibility. This is one of the most remarkable things about Griffin’s motivation, despite being already invisible. Is he mad already? We can certainly assume so, but one wonders about the true origin of his psychosis.
Jack Griffin has flaws, he has weaknesses, and he only wants to undo what he has done. In this way, he is not Dracula. He is more akin to Frankenstein. I can only assume that the interruptions and constant suspicion from the local townsfolk make things worse or perhaps the people make victims of themselves through interaction with this mad scientist. He certainly isn’t working with all his test tubes. He throws his work around. He abuses the hotel staff. He doesn’t pay. He’s more eccentric than Donald Trump.
Without hope, Griffin claims to have been driven mad by the peeping populace, but his experiments did that right enough. With no way back, he tries to intimidate and threaten those around him. His friends seem to want to help him when they discover what Griffin has done, but the madman murders one of them for his efforts. It is clear Griffin was driven mad by the formula, but it might have been nice to hint at something else, like the horrible influence of society. Unfortunately, the movie does not deviate from its simple story into social commentary of that sort. Rains is loud and boisterous, overshadowing everyone else, except perhaps the land-lady who screetches loud enough to raise the dead.
Griffin tells his friend about his necessity to do something nobody else had done, but his mind wanders from scientific discovery to murder and terrorism. He murders a policeman who calls The Invisible Man sightings a hoax. His friend Kemp goes along with Griffin’s plans for terrorism for some reason, perhaps out of fear or terror. Maybe he feels some loyalty to his friend, but I could tell he is ultimately scared of his friend. Out of all the complementary characters, Kemp gives the best performance, especially as he pleads for his life and tells the stupid police to start doing their jobs. I agree!
The movie does not have any noticeable difference from the usual Universal caper, but there are some striking angles that give importance to The Invisible Man and his appearances. These stylistic choices are overshadowed by the technical achievements of the movie, which enhanced its overall reputation. None of the scenes drag and the dialogue is good. It is watchable and entertaining. Universal added The Invisible Man to its classic movie monsters collection in the 90s.
All in all, this classic movie entertains. It delivers with a fast-paced caper and it gives its audience a character with an insane quest. In the end, Griffin says that he is doing all this for his fiance, believing the millions he’ll get for his secret formula will bring her happiness. Griffin has no confidence that he’ll be enough for his fiance, so he pursues his experiment instead. This motivation is insanity enough, but the movie tries its best to argue that this is science gone wrong. Either way, I was happy to root for The Invisible Man to sneak away from the police and get away for some more sequels.