The Invisible Man (11/13/33) Reputedly clever man makes a string of bad decisions. If he really wanted to be left alone, he woud have gone to London. Once he chose to go to east bumfuck he became the center of their attention, of COURSE people spied on him, that’s WHAT small towns DO for entertainment. Mind you that wasn’t his first bad decision, experimenting on oneself never ends well; he really should have stuck to lab animals, or maybe he did and he misplaced them all. Griffin and Kemp are supposed to be equals assistants to an older scientist, well Kemp seems to live very well in pretty damn nice house, how come Griffin is so incredibly poor he has gone so completely obsessed for power to impress his girl friend? IF he works all night every night on this for 5 years, WHEN did he had time to romance Stuart? When did THAT happen? I suspect there was something else going on before he starts terrorizing the country side. “We will begin with a reign of terror,” that had to come from a childhood trauma. The book paints him as crazy BEFORE he starts injecting himself with things, the film says it made him crazy, probably because we can’t imagine Gloria Stuart falling for a madman. I can see why the script delayed the production, it does rely on a lot of distration. If you are looking for the plotholes you are missing the big picture. The film isn’t about how he got himself invisible, it’s about the ensuing paranoia, what do you do when there’s an invisible hostile force roaming about? What do you say to a naked man?
This was an ideal project for Whale, a generous dollop of science fiction smeared over a traditional English setting. He got to paint a portrait of people he knew and then set about terrorizing them. Where would the world be without Una’s screaming? Watch for Whalesian details… when Griffin is removing his headbandage in front a mirror using a matte techinique, the matted arm keeps ‘bumping’ the curtain which is on the other image. When he lies down for a goodnight’s rest, the scene cuts to the man he just killed also covered in a blanket but being carted out on a stretcher..morbidly clever. I always laugh when he gobbles up the toast soldier. Love the sly wordplay – like the Little Willy joke about sucking the boy out of a snow bank (Little Willies were the naughty 4 line poems from the 1910s. http://ruthlessrhymes.com/category/little_willies), or when a naked invisible Griffin complains about the cold freezing icicles of an Eskimo..and “Icicles” rhymes with what body part? Dwight Frye, cub reporter repeatedly asking for any ‘special secret plans?’, as IF they were going to tell him. Even visual jokes, like filming Kemp hitting on Flora completely obscured by what would have been a very expensive mid winter floral arrangement. The ladies of the pub all bundled up snug in their Snug. And the not so vielded reference to Chancellor Hitler with the posturing and the Power to Rule speech about conquering the world with invisble armies. The long drawn out stalking and murder of Kemp is pretty damn ghastly, as is the over the top crashing of an entire train load of people; but what reign of terror is complete without a little mass murder?
On the whole this is my second favorite James Whale film. Casting second string Rains was a stroke of genius, granted Karloff’s round tones are by far creepier but in a more subtle way, Rains went from charming subtle threat to over the top mad cackling in heartbeat. One of the few films where the protagonist is represented more often by a special effect than an actor, yet still Rains’ voice over resists taking a back seat to those special effects, which really try to steal every scene…except the ones that Una steals.