Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Invisible Man (1933 film)

Based on the sci-fi novel by H.G. Wells, The Invisible Man is the story of a scientist who tries to reverse an experiment he conducted where he became invisible as he deals with his condition. Directed by James Whale and screenplay by R.C. Sheriff, with un-credited contributions from Philip Wylie and Preston Sturges, the film is about a man trying to fix his condition only to deal with the chaos of his experiments as the titular character in Jack Griffin is portrayed by Claude Rains. Also starring Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Dudley Digges, Una O’Connor, Henry Travers, and Forrester Harvey. The Invisible Man is a riveting and compelling film from James Whale.

The film follows a scientist who had become invisible as he hides in a hotel trying to find the formula to reverse his condition while succumbing to madness. It’s a simple premise that plays into a man’s obsession as he would use his condition to wreak havoc on a small town as its people would upset him as he’s trying to work forcing him to reach towards an old friend for help only to create more problems. The film’s screenplay by R.C. Sheriff does play into Jack Griffin’s troubled state where he arrives to this inn hoping for a room to stay and not be bothered as he’s trying to work on an antidote. Yet, he’s interrupted by the people running the inn as he gets upset while they learn who he is as he causes trouble while there are those in Griffin’s life such as his former fiancée Flora Cranley (Gloria Stuart) who is concerned about his whereabouts and state of mind. Even when her father and Griffin’s former employer Dr. Cranley (Henry Travers) reveals that Griffin might have used a substance that has contributed to his troubled behavior.

James Whale’s direction does emphasize on simplicity in terms of the compositions that he creates yet it is in the way he builds suspense and intrigue as it relates to Griffin’s condition that gives the film an edge in its approach to suspense. Shot largely at the studio lots in Universal Studios in Hollywood, Whale would create a world that is set in England where it’s set largely at a small town where there aren’t any cars except for those who are rich. Whale would use some wide shots to establish the locations but emphasizes more on medium shots and close-ups for a look into the inn that Griffin would stay in as well as some of the moments in which Griffin would reveal his condition to those who are trying to bother him. Notably in a sequence where he scares the innkeeper Mr. Hall (Forrester Harvey) while wreaking havoc in the street as he’s invisible and naked.

When a manhunt for Griffin emerges, Whale’s compositions play into the chaos as well as Griffin’s willingness to outsmart them as there is an element of humor into the film. Even as it play into the fact that there’s people trying to capture Griffin but they can’t see him and he’s playing around them as they can’t see him. The element of trickery that Whale creates with the help of his special effects team as well as scenes of Griffin shedding his clothes and bandages to unveil what he’s like as an invisible man. The film’s third act that plays into the manhunt but also Griffin’s increasingly mad behavior where he takes advantage of his condition and creates disarray in cities and small towns. Even as some welcome this element of anarchy that Griffin is bringing but it would eventually become deadly prompting action from those close to Griffin to stop him in embracing his role as the invisible man. Overall, Whale crafts a rapturous and haunting film about an invisible man trying to find an antidote for his condition.

Cinematographer Arthur Hedeson does excellent work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it play into usage of low-key lights and moods for the scenes set at night while being straightforward for the scenes set in the day. Editor Ted J. Kent does terrific work with the editing with its stylish usage of transition wipes as a montage as well as rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense. Art director Charles D. Hall does brilliant work with the look of the inn as well as the town exteriors and the home of Dr. Cranley and the home of one of Griffin’s friends.

The special effects work of John P. Fulton and Frank D. Williams is brilliant for the unveiling of the titular character as well as how objects move and what he’s like when he’s wearing one or two articles of clothing. The sound work of Gilbert Kurland is superb for the sound as well as the scenes that play into the chaos that Griffin creates. The film’s music by Heinz Roemheld is wonderful for its orchestral score that play into the suspense with soaring string arrangements as well as a few somber pieces for the drama.

The film’s incredible cast include some notable small roles from Dudley Digges as a chief inspector trying to outwit Griffin, John Carradine as an informer who claims to have seen Griffin, E.E. Clive as Constable Jaffers who immediately dismisses the idea of the invisible man until he sees it for himself, Forrester Harvey as the innkeeper Herbert Hall, Una O’Connor as Hall’s wife, and Henry Travers as Dr. Cranley who is concerned about Griffin’s well-being but also is aware of what Griffin used for his experiment believing it’s the cause of Griffin’s troubled behavior. William Harrigan is excellent as Griffin’s colleague and friend Dr. Arthur Kemp who reluctantly lets Griffin hide out to continue the experiments only to be troubled by Griffin’s behavior leading to Griffin to wanting to save himself.

Gloria Stuart is brilliant as Flora Cranley as Griffin’s former fiancée who is worried about him as she wants to help him get better. Finally, there’s Claude Rains in a phenomenal performance as Jack Griffin as a man trying to find an antidote for his condition while wreaking havoc when he’s completely invisible and naked as Rains spends much of the film hiding under masks and bandages while doing a lot of the talking as it is an iconic performance from Rains.

The Invisible Man is a spectacular film from James Whale that features a great performance from Claude Rains as the titular character. Along with its ensemble cast, dazzling visuals, bombastic score, and lively special effects that were primitive for its time. It’s a film that play into the idea of a man who is given powers to create mayhem as he struggles with his sanity to try and fix himself only to deal with the implications of his experiments. In the end, The Invisible Man is a sensational film from James Whale.

Related: The Invisible Man (2020 film)

James Whale: (Journey’s End) – (Hell’s Angels) – (Waterloo Bridge) – Frankenstein - (The Impatient Maiden) – (The Old Dark Horse) – (The Kiss Before the Mirror) – (By Candlelight) – (One More River) – Bride of Frankenstein - (Remember Last Night?) – (Show Boat (1936 film)) – (The Road Back) – (The Great Garrick) – (Sinners in Paradise) – (Wives Under Suspicion) – (Port of Seven Seas) – (The Man in the Iron Mask (1939 film)) – (Green Hell) – (They Dare Not Love)

© thevoid99 2018


Brittani Burnham said...

This is one essential I probably should see but just haven't gotten to it yet. Some day!

Jay said...

This one still gives me the shivers!!

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-I'd totally see this as those early Universal monster movies like Dracula and Frankenstein I feel are important to the history of horror as this one was a lot of fun to watch.

@Jay-I bet. Especially considering that some of the things he was doing while he was invisible is scary but I'd be more concerned over the fact that he's naked and he'd probably have his balls on my face. That would scare me.