The invisible man tends to get lumped in with the other classic universal monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein. However, I think there’s a known but unspoken fact that he’s not as cool as his cohorts and falls on a lower tier when it comes to categorizing him. He’s not supernatural exactly like the wolf man or has superhuman strength like Frankenstein. He’s just a dude that happens to be invisible. I mean it’s sort of impressive but it just doesn’t sound as intriguing as someone who needs to feed on brains or suck blood to survive. If the man himself isn’t interesting then the fact that he’s invisible won’t really help that out. I had all of these preconceived notions going into this movie and didn’t quite know what to expect. But man I walked away thinking this picture was pretty awesome and significantly boosted by view of the invisible man.
When I popped this sucker in what I found surprising was that we join the invisible man when he’s already invisible. I thought this was going to be a “beginning” story where we watch some scientist develop the formula for invisibility for the first act but in a stroke of genius that’s left out. We never get a flashback to that moment either. Instead the guy just shows up at an inn looking for a room to figure out a way to reverse his condition. Going by Wikipedia this is how the H.G. Wells novel starts up so I’ll credit him for getting right to the point. And that’s a wonderful trait that this film possesses.
The story moves very quickly with virtually no downtime. The invisible man goes from one situation to another thinking that he wants to become opaque again but soon realizes that he can do whatever the fuck he wants. He recruits the help of a fellow chemist and lays out a plan of mass murder. He doesn’t really say what killing a bunch of people will accomplish or what his ultimate goal is but goddamn this guy is a crazy motherfucker. And the thing is he actually does kill a fair amount of people in this picture. He even derails a train sending it off the side of a cliff at one point. That’s a ton of people right there.
Claude Rains (Casablanca, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) plays the lead and he’s so badass in this. He’s evil and laughs maniacally when he’s tormenting people but he also has a tender heart for his boss’s daughter (also another great move is to have this romance kept to a minimum). You would think that since you don’t see Rains’ face for the entire movie that it would be difficult to convey emotion but he conveys a shitload. You can tell by the way he uses his body and that unmistakable voice what he’s thinking and feeling. Like during one scene when Rains is forlorning for his love I swear the eye slits on his bandaged head looked sad and regretful.
The effects used are great and I think they hold up. The filmmakers knew we wanted to see the invisible man interacting with shit and take his clothes off to exhibit his condition. Well they give it to us and they give it to us often. This isn’t one of those movies where they decided to put everything they had effects wise into once scene. Throughout the whole movie the invisible man in doing shit like taking bandages off his head, driving a car, fighting with the cops and it goes on and on. And it never gets old. Each time I was impressed and wondered how they did those effects back then. Good work 1933 filmmakers.
Apparently the major difference between the book and the movie is that in the film the invisible man is a total maniac instead of a more reserved scientist. Well I’m glad they made him crazy because that just adds another layer to this character. Not only does he go through the phase where he tries to find a cure but he moves beyond that and actually wants to stay invisible. They don’t tell us what the final straw is that makes the guy want to abandon a cure but that turn is just what the character needs. From the start he’s tortured and desperate and confused but now he’s also a villain. It’s cool that we come in right at the crux of that transition because it makes us feel for the guy more.
I really dig this movie and how void of fluff it is. The plot and situations change so quickly that it doesn’t give you a lot of room to breathe. But I think that fits with the film and our main character. The invisible man’s lunacy escalates rapidly and so do the stakes. If he isn’t stopped then he’ll just keep on killing but where do you look? How do you search for an invisible man? It’s a great premise that I never thought about for more than half a minute. To top it all off this baby only clocks in at 71 mins. You can’t go wrong with this one.
And I know it’s Halloween and this is more science fiction than horror but it’s just how things fell this year.