The Invisible Man (1933)
Wandering through a blizzard a man completely covered and wrapped in bandages arrives at the Lions Head Inn needing a room. He is shown upstairs to a room by Mrs. Hall (Una O’Conner), the innkeepers wife. He refuses to remove his hat and coat, requesting dinner to be brought up to his room and to be left undisturbed. The patrons below begin to speculate who the stranger is and what secrets are beneath the winter clothes and bandages. Mrs. Hall suddenly returns to the stranger’s room to bring the mustard that did not make it on the dinner tray. She notices that the strangers head is completely covered by bandages, as if he had been in some terrible accident. We the audience now see that a portion of his face that is un-bandaged, his lower jaw, is invisible. In the matter of a few weeks, the man has turned the sitting room of the tavern into a laboratory working tirelessly for an antidote for his condition. During this time, the stranger continues to remain isolated in the upstairs rooms, and is quick to lose his temper. When he upsets the innkeeper and his wife, the police are brought in to handle the situation. Mockingly, the man reveals the nature of his situation to the police and patrons. He is completely invisible. While escaping, he humorously attacks the people at the inn and in the town, thus beginning the incredible hunt for the invisible man.
Nearby Flora Cranley (Gloria Stuart) pleads with her father, Dr. Cranley (Henry Travers), to search for Jack Griffin. Griffin had until recently worked as an assistant with Dr. Cranley. Before his disappearance Griffin had become withdrawn and secretive, working on experiments of his own behind locked doors. Dr. Cranley and his other assistant Dr. Arthur Kemp (William Harrigan) rummage through the ashes of Griffin’s notes and look through the empty cabinets of his room looking for clues to what has happened to him. They find a list of chemicals written on a piece of paper. On the list is the drug Monocaine. Monocaine had once been tested on a dog; the dog lost all color turning completely white. There was an adverse side effect to the drug… the dog went completely mad.
Upon returning home, Kemp is startled by the presence of an invisible guest. Griffin demands that Kemp help him in his reign of terror. Griffin believes that with his power of invisibility the world will fear and respect him. He needs a visible partner to assist him in finding an antidote and carrying out his acts of terror. However, when Kemp becomes scared and calls the police, an angry Griffin threatens to kill him before 10 o’clock the next night.
Though The Invisible Man became one of Universal Pictures most popular films from the 1930’s, it is not the typical Universal horror film. There are some similar characteristics: a lead character who becomes drunk with power, a damsel in distress, some kind of monster, and an older scientist who is like a mentor. The story, based on the book by H. G. Welles published in 1897, comes across more as Science Fiction. With its dark subject matter, the film is able to use a fair amount of humor to lighten the dark mood of the film. The special effects in the film are impressive given that this is before CGI. The images of floating clothing were created using an early version of the green screen process. Rains would wear a black velvet suit and would be shot against a black velvet background. They would then combine the two shots creating the necessary effect. Other effects were created with the use of wires.
If you have been following my recommendations, this week I have picked another Claude Rains film. Last week we saw Rains as the calm and methodical angel Mr. Jordan in Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941). This week we “see” Rains in his first American film The Invisible Man. (It should be noted that prior to this film, Rains had only appeared in one silent film produced in England.) Clearly they were two very different roles; however, they both prove the versatility of this amazing actor. Having had a successful career as a stage actor, it was thought that because of his height he would never make the transition to film. Rains, best known for the films he made with Warner Brothers, had his American film debut (if you could call it that, for we only see him for about 20 seconds in the film) in a Universal Pictures horror film. However, his distinctive voice won him the lead role in The Invisible Man. Rains would later star in two other classic Universal horror films, The Wolf Man (1941) which he starred alongside Lon Chaney Jr. as the wolf man and The Phantom of the Opera (1943) in which he played the title role.
In the film you will see Una O’Conner and hear her recognizable scream (that would send Faye Ray back to screaming camp). She would be called on again by Universal to scream at another monster in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). The Invisible Man also stars another recognizable face, character actor Henry Travers as Dr Cranley. Travers is most well-known as the angel Clarence in the film It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Also, in the film is a very young and beautiful Gloria Stewart. To most, she is known as playing the elder version of Rose in the 1997 James Cameron film Titanic. She is also the oldest person to ever be nominated for an Oscar for her role in that film, being 87 at the time. However, Gloria had a film career beginning in the early 1930’s through the mid 1940’s. Watch carefully in the film for appearances by Walter Brennan and John Caradine.
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Tagged: Claude Rains, H. G. Welles, Henry Travers, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, It's a Wonderful Life, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Phantom of the Opera, The Wolf Man, Titanic, Titanic (1953), Una O'Connor, Universal International, Universal Pictures, Universal Pictures Horror, Universal Studios, William Harrigan