The Invisible Man (1933), starring Claude Rains, directed by James Whale
The signature adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man stars Claude Rains as a scientist who discovers a serum that makes him invisible. Covered by bandages and dark glasses, the scientist arrives at a small English village and attempts to reverse his discovery.
However, the same drug that renders him invisible is slowly driving him insane … And capable of committing acts of terror. Directed by James Whale, the horror classic features groundbreaking special effects by John P. Fulton.
Cast of characters
- Dr. Jack Griffin / The Invisible Man (Claude Rains, Here Comes Mr. Jordan). The scientist who discovers the secret to invisibility. And, unfortunately, the chemicals used are slowly driving him mad. Claude Rains does an excellent job, making the murderous monster strangely sympathetic.
- Flora Cranley (Gloria Stuart, The Three Musketeers 1939). Griffin’s love interest. A nice young lady, who clearly loves Griffin, and tries her best to rescue him. She’s not interested, but pursued by, Dr. Kemp.
- Dr. Arthur Kemp (William Harrigan, G Men). Despite Flora clearly being in love with Griffin, he pursues her anyway. She rebuffs him, and then Griffin breaks into his house and tries to force Kemp to be his partner. But Kemp doesn’t have the stomach for murder …
- Dr. Cranley (Henry Travers, On Borrowed Time). The kindly scientist that both Griffin and Kemp work for. He’s also Flora’s father, who’s concerned for her. He also legitimately tries to protect, and help, Griffin.
- Jenny Hall (Una O’Connor, Bride of Frankenstein). The wife of the innkeeper where Griffin stays at the beginning of the movie. As Griffin becomes more unhinged … and abusive … she becomes less tolerant of him. As normal, Una does very good comedy relief.
- Herbert Hall (Forrester Harvey, Captain Blood). The innkeeper, who at his wife’s urging, tries to throw Griffin out of the inn. And gets assaulted for his troubles.
- Chief of Police (Holmes Herbert, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1931). The police chief, who’s tasked with stopping the murder spree. But how to catch an invisible man?
- Constable Jaffers (E. E. Clive, Hound of the Baskervilles 1939).
Editorial review of The Invisible Man courtesy of Amazon.com
Claude Rains practically owns his film debut in The Invisible Man, despite the fact that his face (let alone his body) is seen only for seconds in the final moments. As the brilliant scientist who discovers the secret of invisibility, Rains steps into the film wrapped up like a mummy behind a layer of bandages and blanketed in heavy clothes. When he removes his garments, there’s nothing underneath, a simple but effective bit of 1930s movie magic that, apart from a few glitches, works as well today as it did in 1933.
Like Frankenstein, another cautionary tale of science gone horribly wrong, the consequences of the doctor’s experiments are dire: the chemicals drive him insane. Director James Whale infuses the film with plenty of humor, much of it arising from the quaint quirks of the local villagers, but it turns to black comedy as the doctor transforms from an impish prankster upsetting bicycles and taunting tavern patrons to a megalomaniac bent on world domination. It’s slow going even at 71 minutes, but full of delightful touches and boasts a terrific performance by the all but unseen Rains, whose rich, cultured voice envelopes the picture in a kind of omnipresent fog. Vincent Price took up the role in the sequel, The Invisible Man Returns. –Sean Axmaker