“A scientist finds a way of becoming invisible, but in doing so, he becomes murderously insane.”

Director: James Whale
Writers: H.G. Wells, R.C. Sherriff, Preston Sturges
Staring: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Henry Travers
Release Date: November 13, 1933

There is something about these old monster/mayhem movies that just work. There is a reason they are classic. You have King Kong (1993), The Mummy (1932), Vampyr (1932) and The Raven (1935), all of which I enjoy and/or respect.

I have added a new one to the repertoire, and it is one of it not the best of the bench. The Invisible Man (1933) takes H.G. Wells novel and turns it into a fast-paced thrill ride that surprisingly pulls no punches.

Wells’ 1987 novel is considered one of the most influential in science fiction and horror because it flipped the script and told the tale from a third party perspective. Credit to James Whale for taking Wells’ story and adapting the majority of it well, but also adding necessary edits to the source material. Whale trims a ton of fat from the book and creates a 90 minute sprint of chaos and madness for the hungry viewing audience.

We start off in a blizzard setting and mysterious man arriving at a remote inn and demanding a room. The innkeepers allow this man to stay, but they soon regret their decision when they realize that this newcomer to their midst is actually a crazy person. He is being rude to the staff, demanding isolation and getting behind on his payments. Their annoyance turns to terror when Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) reveals his true self, and they see nothing. He is invisible. He is the invisible man.

Dr. Jack Griffin is a scientist looking for a heroic discovery. He finds a way to turn himself invisible, but he does not know how to turn himself back around. That is why he went to the inn and left his family and friends behind. He did not want them to see him as this monster. However, his monstrous behavior is not due to his looks, but rather his actions. The medications that he gave himself send him into a mental downward spiral, resulting in him being obsessed with power and creating chaos where ever he can. Dr. Jack Griffin kills people, makes trains literally go off their tracks, and drives towns into madness. Nobody is safe with the invisible man on the loose.

Claude Rains is outstanding as The Invisible Man. He is fantastic. He was nominated for four Academy Awards in his life, and I have only seen one of those roles in Casablanca (1942). All I can say is that of all the monster movies I have seen, Rains portrayal of the Invisible Man is one of the best. He is better than Robert De Niro as Frankenstein’s monster. He is better than Boris Karloff in The Mummy. This is going to be insane, but in terms of a monster in a movie that is having so much fun wreaking so much havoc, my greatest comparison to Rains is Ron Pearlman in Hellboy (2004).

Are there some things that age poorly with a 1933 movie? Absolutely, and I am not talking about the special effects. The fact that the major female characters in this movie are side pieces and fulcrums for the plot is disheartening. Seeing this rendition of The Invisible Man and comparing it to the Leigh Whannell’s 2020 version is a fantastic conversation. Putting Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) as the lead, and making The Invisible Man a scorned and psychopathic man BEFORE the suit makes it more about the man and not about the science.

There are also two very distinct ways of making the movie. James Whale’s story is fast paced, frenetic and focused a lot on the Invisible Man’s impact on society rather than personally. Whannell’s version is much slower, more methodical, focusing a lot more on the suspenseful side. There is not blending of horror and comedy in 2020’s version. It’s all existential dread.

IMDB trivia section is the best. If this little anecdote is true, then I wish I was there.

The first time Claude Rains‘ daughter ever saw her father in a movie was in 1950, when he took her to a showing of ‘The Invisible Man’ in a small Pennsylvanian theater. While the film was playing, Rains was telling his daughter all about how it was made. The other theater patrons stopped watching the movie and instead listened to Rains’ anecdotes.

Also in this trivia section is the fact that Mark Hamill is quoted as saying that Claude Rains and his portrayal in The Invisible Man was part of his inspiration for his iconic voice as The Joker. That just such a cool fun funk. It also fits in terms of the ethos for each character too. Both love causing chaos and watching the community try and outsmart them.

Also…the laugh…

I love these old movies. Don’t care if you call me an old fart. These are the movies that started the inspiration timeline for some of our best actors, writers and directors of today. It is awesome to be able to go back and see where it all started from.

STANKO RATING: A- (4.0/5 Stars)

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