Friday, September 21, 2012

The Invisible Man (1933) Review

The Invisible Man poster
Director: James Whale
Stars: Claude Rains, Una O'Connor
Genre: Horror, Science fiction

Having read the novel by H.G. Wells I was quite impressed at how good of an adaption this is. Of course it's much faster paced than the source material, as to be expected. But it still manages to capture the feel of the original, and many scenes are just how I had imagined they would be. Of course there are a couple of differences but nothing major.

This is probably director James Whale's third most well-known film, behind Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Whale is my favorite director when it comes to 30s Universal Horror, and though I found the his two Frankenstein films to be a bit better, The Invisible Man is a very important member of the Universal Monsters cast and one of my favorites. (Heh, what Universal Monster isn't one of my favorites?)

Though it is not usually classified as a "trick film" like many earlier films are, most notably Buster Keaton's Sherlock, Jr., it really does a great job of displaying movie magic. We get to see some really awesome effects, still to this day looking superb. From the Invisible Man unwrapping his bandages revealing a seemingly headless body, to books and objects which seem to be floating across the room on their own, and even the man being spun in circles by his feet by the Invisible Man, all never seizing to amaze. And the best part is you can pretty much guess and figure out how all these tricks are done, though I'm sure you couldn't at the time, but it's great to visualize how they tied strings to things and whatnot. If I could pick one film to display early Hollywood movie magic, The Invisible Man would be it.

The Invisible Man review
The plot is good, as should be expected from an H.G. Wells adaptation. In here they kind of make the Invisible Man more evil and ruthless, killing and terrorizing more people than I remember him doing in the book. I do wish they dealt with his psychology a bit more, and allowed you to understand and sympathize with him more. In the novel it was great because you realized he was mad and dangerous but you still understood him which caused sympathy. Don't get me wrong, there is some glimpses into the character in the film, just not as much as the novel. But enough about the novel.

The first half of the film is basically all a build-up to the second half which is just a big, intense game of cat-and-mouse between the Invisible Man and the everyone else. It's pretty funny and thrilling all at once. Add that with a decent dose of science-fiction and horror and you got yourself a tale.

This was Claude Rains film debut, who later went on to star in many well-known and well-acclaimed films. And for a guy who's invisible the entire time he does a damn good acting job. A couldn't think of a better fit for the part, I'm glad, though a little surprised, that they didn't use one of the Universal regulars in this. I of course love Lugosi and Karloff as much as the next guy, I'm just glad this film had a new face...or lack of face rather. However I have read that there were many considerations for the part before settling on Rains, including Karloff. In the end though James Whale wanted an "intellectual voice" that Rains did well in providing.

I should also note that this is one of the most humorous Universal horror films I've seen. There were quite a few scenes that made me laugh. This is partly due to the great writing, partly due to Claude Rains' great performance, and partly due to the mere absurdity of an invisible man running about. The scene where the Invisible Man was skipping down the road in nothing but a pair of pants while singing nursery rhymes and chasing and old woman had me cracking up.

The Invisible Man review

Not very much more to be said about this. A classic and a must see for anyone.

4 stars
+Great plot adaptation
+Stunning effects
+Humorous, but not cheesy
-Deals less with character psychology and focuses mostly on his evil side

Purchase The Invisible Man on Amazon: DVD - Stream - VHS

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