Horror, high drama, larkish wit, and fast paced action characterise this classic, laden with masterful special effects. Claude Rains leads the cast as the scientist Jack Griffin, whose experiment has gone a little too far, saying “I meddled in things that man must leave alone”. Una O’Connor as the screaming innkeeper’s wife is guaranteed to curdle the blood. Based on the novel by H. G. Wells. “The Invisible Man is the first truly great American science fiction film”, Kim Newman, empireonline.com. (Cert PG)
Dir: James Whale 69 mins USA 1933
Preceded by Annual General Meeting at 7.30 p.m.
THE INVISIBLE MAN
USA 1933 69 minutes Cert. PG
The premise is very simple for this adaptation of HG Wells’ novel of the same name. The Invisible Man tells of a scientist who discovers a formula to make him invisible. However, he starts going insane from frequent use of it, causing him to become an invisible killer who causes havoc in the countryside.
The film had some production problems to overcome. The first was writing an adaptation of the novel. The British playwright and screenwriter, R.C. Sherriff (Goodbye Mr Chips (1939), Odd Man Out (1947), The Dam Busters (1953)), struggled to find a copy of the novel. Universal Studios only had access to the more than 14 treatments of the story from previous attempts, including one set in Czarist Russia, and another one set on Mars. Sherriff luckily found a copy in a second-hand bookshop, read it, thought it would make a great film, and then wrote the screenplay.
With the screenplay done, there was a discussion over who should direct The Invisible Man. Before considering British-born James Whale (Frankenstein (1931), The Old Dark House (1932)) to direct, there was consideration of choosing the French director Robert Florey (The Cocoanuts (1929), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)), or even the German director E. A. Dupont (Atlantik (1929)) for the directorial job.
Another area to take into account was who would play the leading role. Universal wanted Boris Karloff, who worked with Whale on Frankenstein. However, Karloff turned that down, and Whale even insisted on someone who had a more ‘intellectual’ voice for the role. Luckily, for him, he accidentally heard the screen test from a then-unknown British actor Claude Rains. The film would launch the career of Rains, who went to work on such films such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Casablanca (1942), and Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
The film went to award James Whale with a Special Recommendation at the 1934 Venice Film Festival. The Invisible Man was also inducted into the US National Film Registry in 2008, along with such films as The Killers (1946), Deliverance (1972), and The Terminator (1984).
The Invisible Man – Claude Rains
Flora Cranley – Gloria Stuart
Dr Arthur Kemp – William Harrigan
Dr Cranley – Henry Travers
Jenny Hall – Una O’Connor
Herbert Hall – Forrester Harvey
Director – James Whale
Screenplay – R C Sherriff based on novel by H G Wells, Preston Sturges (uncredited), Philip Wylie (uncredited)
Cinematography – Arthur Edeson
Original Music – Heinz Roemheld (uncredited)
Producer – Carl Laemmle Jnr.
“One of the greatest creators of ‘optical effects’ was John P Fulton, whose innovative and stunning work on The Invisible Man still dazzles the eye.” John Landis, in his book Monsters in the Movies
“Claude Rains is one of the most undervalued stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age… the success of this superb adaptation of H G Wells’s novel is down to John P Fulton and John J Mescall’s pioneering special effects and the eerie atmosphere conjured up by horror maestro James Whale”, David Parkinson, The Radio Times Guide to Film
BIRTH OF A ROBOT (short)
“Very colourful and intriguing”
“Very innovative with well-matched music”
“The Magic Roundabout on acid”
“I prefer the Magic Roundabout.”
“Great. More George Pal than Len Lyon in the animation aesthetics.”
“Enjoyable but the Shell plug at the end spoiled it.”
“Art and music from Shell – no thanks!”
“Wallace and Gromit meet Terry Prachett??”
“Maybe technically [illegible] but could have lived without it.”
INVISIBLE MAN (feature)
“I’m lost for words – terrific!”
“What a tonic!”
“Preposterous. Good fun.”
“Quite good fun, really”
“Very dated but brilliant entertainment.”
“Excellent entertainment – we English definitely have culture!!”
“Tragic but comical too!”
“Excellent science fiction horror, packed with brilliant special effects and the performance of a lifetime from Claude Rains.”
“Surprisingly good evocation of 30s Britain to begin with but then US accents intruded. Still highly enjoyable.”
“Over the top at times but still enjoyable and impressive. The Invisible Man spoke amazingly smoothly on his deathbed for some one wounded in both lungs. Both films impressive for their time in various ways.”
“Dreadful acting but special effects amazing for the time”
“Entertaining of its type (short also). How did they do the technical bits, ie making him invisible?”
“How can we be sure it was Claude Rains in the starring role? I think he did a cameo appearance as the corpse and the rest of the time it was Neville Chamberlain!”
“A jolly romp but not for me!”
“Good film – but was it meant to be quite so funny?”
“A good bad film with a lot of hilarious ham acting, especially from Una O’Connor.”
“The worst acting I have ever seen – Flora the very worst – and the worst cardboard scenery.”
“Fun, I suppose. Not a good idea to have a short with the AGM and the feature also needed an intro.”
“It must have been fun making this film.”
“I preferred last week’s feature.”
“Keystone Cops meet Buster Keaton.”
“The police should have gone to Specsavers and the pub was just like the Spread Eagle on a Thursday night!”
“This comment is submitted in invisible ink ….”
“Would have been a lot shorter if they had used a nice, shiny, new Police and Crime Commissioner!”