Here’s my review of the Claude Rains classic THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933), another sample from IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, my collection of horror movie columns now available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at www.neconebooks.com.
This review was originally published in the HWA NEWSLETTER in April 2002.
THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933)
“I meddled in things man must leave alone.”
One of the most famous lines in classic horror cinema. Who said it? No, it wasn’t Colin Clive. [He got to shriek the most famous of all- “It’s alive!” in FRANKENSTEIN (1931)].
It was Claude Rains in THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933).
THE INVISIBLE MAN is not always mentioned in the same breath with FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA (1931), or THE WOLF MAN (1941). Nonetheless, it’s a topnotch horror film that entertains from beginning to end.
Directed with flair by James Whale, the man who brought us FRANKENSTEIN and its superior sequel THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), THE INVISIBLE MAN is full of the stuff that makes old black and white horror movies so magical. Take the Invisible Man’s first entrance, for example. The tavern door swings open, and through the entrance steps a mysterious man in a trench coat, his head and face completely bandaged. All noise within the tavern ceases. The only remaining sound is the howl of the swirling blizzard winds outside.
The screenplay, by R.C. Sheriff, is a nice adaptation of the H.G. Wells novella. It tells the story of Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains), a scientist who becomes invisible when he uses his invisibility formula on himself. Unfortunately, the concoction also drives him mad, and he causes a reign of terror over the countryside.
Claude Rains, in his starring debut, excels as Dr. Griffin, a.k.a. the Invisible Man. Enough cannot be said about an actor who steals a movie just by using his voice! Rains’ voice dominates the film, capturing Griffin’s madness perfectly.
And Rains is supported by a fine cast. Gloria Stuart, nominated for an Oscar in 1998 for her supporting role in TITANIC (1998), plays the leading lady who’s in love with Griffin. Her father is played by Henry Travers, most famous today for his portrayal of the angel in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946). Also on hand are Una O’Connor at her shrieking best, and E.E. Clive as the befuddled police constable. Even Universal favorite Dwight Frye makes an appearance, as does John Carradine in a quick snippet on the telephone!
The special effects by John P. Fulton are amazing. They’re incredibly fun to watch.
THE INVISIBLE MAN is full of humorous moments. My favorite is the scene where the screeching old lady runs down the street. As she disappears off camera, we see the reason she is screaming. Along the road comes skipping a pair of pants, and we hear Claude Rains’ voice singing, “Here we go gathering nuts in May, nuts in May, nuts in May—.”
And director Whale doesn’t skimp on the horror either. THE INVISIBLE MAN contains one of the scariest murder scenes in all classic horror. Griffin captures the cowardly Dr. Kemp and binds him in his car at the edge of a cliff. He then tells Kemp in gruesome detail what’s going to happen to him when he pushes the car over the edge. As the vehicle plunges from the cliff, we hear Kemp’s high-pitched shrieks just before the car hits bottom and explodes. Chilling.
Since it’s that time of year again, and we’re all thinking about the best horror works of the year, why not check out one of the best horror movies of all time? THE INVISIBLE MAN. A classic chiller that is high quality entertainment all the way.
“This will give them a bit of a shock. Something to write home about. A nice bedtime story for the kids too if they want it!” — Claude Rains as the Invisible Man.