Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Invisible Man 1933

The Invisible Man is a no brainer.  It's classic Universal Horror, directed by James Whale, stars Claude Rains (one of my favorites) and has amazing special effects by John P. Fulton, John J. Mescall, and Frank D. Williams.  I had not seen it in years.  Unlike the other Universal heavyweights (Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman) it is not on my yearly rotation.  Thanks to TCM (again) I finally watched it again last night. 

What struck me about The Invisible Man was how scary it is.  I mean, how scary is the thought of a homicidal maniac that is invisible?  I don't care what anyone says, it's not the "monocane".  Dr. Jack Griffin must have been somewhat crazy to begin with.  You don't just turn invisible and decide to become a mass murderer for shits and giggles. 

Dr. Griffin's great idea is to terrorize a fellow colleague, poor Dr. Kemp, into becoming his mass murdering Igor.  When Dr. Kemp decides enough is enough and calls the police, Griffin vows to kill him at 10pm the next day.  This is where the terror lies in this film.  Knowing an invisible monster has a vendetta against you, and has vowed to kill you, no matter what.  What on earth can protect you?  Well, the cops come up with some pretty good ideas for "unmasking" the invisible man, but Griffin is a genius, a mad genius.  Dr. Kemp's days are numbered when he goes off by himself. 

James Whale had a "thing" for the sympathetic monster.  Certainly Frankenstein's monster fit this mold.  Whale and the screenwriters made a few changes to H.G. Wells' story to make Griffin more sympathetic.  In my mind Griffin is the least sympathetic of Whale's monsters.  Perhaps it's Claude Rains.  His voice is sooo evil.  Perhaps its the joy he takes in killing.  Even when he "calms down" in the presence of Flora (Gloria Stuart) I don't completely trust him.  And what the hell is with Flora?  Is Claude Rains that good in the sack that she is willing to overlook the fact that he is an invisible killer?  And why is her Father, Dr. Cranley, so protective of this murdering lunatic?  Is that whole family just totally crazy?

While watching The Invisible Man I kept thinking of one of my favorite guilty pleasures, The Hollow Man.  Kevin Bacon is crazy in that film!  But for my money, I'll take Claude Rains for my nightmares. 

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