The Invisible Man (1933)
the invisible man | james whale | r.c. sherriff | claude rains | gloria stuart | william harrigan | invisible man | based on | novel | h.g. wells | sci-fi | united states | universal | mad scientist | henry travers | una o'connor | forrester harvey | holmes herbert
Film: The Invisible Man
Director: James Whale
Writer: R.C. Sherriff
Starring: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart and William Harrigan
This film was one that I was interested in checking out when I got into the Universal Classic run. It was one of the last franchises that I checked out. What I will say, after that first viewing this one shot up as one of my favorites. When I was compiling the list of movies from 1933, I was excited to get a chance to revisit it.
Synopsis: a scientist finds a way of becoming invisible, but in doing so, he becomes murderously insane.
We begin with a man walking through the snow. He’s wearing a coat. He also has a hat and his face is covered. This is Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains). He enters a bar and inn. He demands a room as well as a fire and that it has a sitting room. The inn is run by Jenny Hall (Una O’Connor). Also helping her is Herbert (Forrester Harvey) along with Millie (Merle Totthenham).
Jack goes to his room but will not take his coat off until Jenny leaves. She brings him food and he eats. He tells her that he wishes to be left alone. She comes back in when Herbert forgot to put the mustard on the tray. She sees him without bandages on his face. This causes her to panic and tell the bar what she saw.
We then shift to a house where Flora (Gloria Stuart) pleads to her father to find Jack. Her father is Dr. Cranley (Henry Travers) who is a doctor that worked with Jack. He tells her that Jack warned him that this would happen and he is sure he is fine. Dr. Arthur Kemp (William Harrigan) then enters. It turns out that he loves Flora and wants her to forget about Jack to marry him. She reaffirms him that she loves Jack.
Back at the inn, Jack is upset that he cannot figure out a formula for his experiment. Jenny comes into the room and he yells at her. He rushes the door, knocking her back and breaking her best China set. She was trying to bring him tea. Jenny then demands her husband kick him out for not paying his bill, for being loud, swearing and for doing his experiments in his room. He tries and that’s when Jack snaps. He removes his clothing to show that he is the invisible.
Constable Jaffers (E.E. Clive) is called in. He attempts to arrest Jack, but he won’t go easy. He messes with everyone in the room and then flees out of the window. He runs amuck in the town as well. More police are called to help them.
Jack then seeks out Arthur, needing his help. Dr. Cranley and Arthur are also sought by the police when they learn they worked with Jack. The invisible man needs to fix the experiment he did to himself. It is driving him mad and it is only a matter of time before he fully breaks. How you can find someone who is invisible though? As well as being loose in the countryside.
That should recap the story and introduce our main characters. Where I want to start is that I love the concept. The film doesn’t go into too much about the formula or how it was created, but I like that. For this original one, we don’t need it. I also love that the power of being invisible warps the mind of Jack. I know the chemical has an effect too but being given this amount of power makes it even worse. A drawback would be seeing him before the transformation as we never get a baseline. We are supposed to think he’s good from what Flora says. That would be my only negative here.
Sticking with the story though, it is interesting what they do here. Jack decides to use the formula on himself. He’s trying to return, but he keeps getting interrupted. There is that arrogance that since he discovered how to go invisible, he should be able to find a way back. I like that concept. The longer that he is in this state, the worse it becomes. Bringing up what I’ve already stated, I think part of it is the chemical, but the other part is the power and what he could get away with as well.
I’ll then shift this to the acting. I’ve already said that Rains was great. What is wild is that this was one of his first American roles. We don’t get to see him though so that is wild. I like how he plays this character. You want him to find the cure, but the longer we are with him, the more insane we see he is. Stuart is fine as Flora. My issue with her is that she seems to be here only to tell us that Jack was a good man. I want to see that though. I think that Harrigan is fine as Arthur. Travers is as well as Dr. Cranley. I did like O’Connor in her role along with Harvey, Holmes Herbert, Clive and the rest of the cast. They all fit and work in their roles.
What I need to get to though is the filmmaking. I love the effect they do with making Jack as the invisible man. I like the look of him when he’s hiding it and he’s bandaged up. It even looks good with having floating objects. There are slight issues that I don’t know if they fully thought out, but I’m not going to hold that against a movie that is 90+ years old. The cinematography is also great in using this character in different things. Other than that, I’d say that the soundtrack was fine for what was needed.
In conclusion, this is one of my favorites of the Universal Classic run. The character is one that is a bit more grounded. They use science, but they don’t lean too heavily into it. Being invisible is something that I’ve thought about and debated what I would do with my friends. I love the performance of Rains. The only issue there is that I think we need a baseline before he goes insane. Other than that, this is a well-made movie. Special credit to the visual effects and the cinematography. I would highly recommend this if you haven’t seen it, that goes for horror and non-horror fans alike.
My Rating: 8 out of 10