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Catch Me If You Can! THE INVISIBLE MAN
Sep 19, 2010 (Updated Sep 19, 2010)
Review by Mark Vaughan
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Brilliant direction dominates a series of things done write.
Cons:Poor Claude Raines, his first Hollywood film, and no one knows what he looks like!
The Bottom Line: Almost three quarters of a century later, this movie still stands the test of time. A true classic.
The Invisible Man (1933) Directed by James Whale from the Novel by H. G. Wells.
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The drugs I took seemed to light up my brain. Suddenly I realized the power I held, the power to rule, to make the world grovel at my feet.-Jack Griffin, The Invisible Man.
Yesterday upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today,
I wish, I wish he'd go away. -Fred Hutchison.
There are two types of super hero fantasies. Would you rather be able to fly, or would you rather be invisible? Flyers are direct folk who revel in the moment. The people who choose invisibility are planners, and likely schemers as well. What could you do if you were invisible? A better question is what couldn't you do?
Jack Griffin (Claude Raines) is a scientist whose new formula has an amazing effect; it has rendered him completely invisible. There are a few problems; the one Griffin is working on is how to become visible again. A more pressing problem is the side effect of one ingredient, eroding his sanity until megalomania rules his actions. It starts as irritation, the sort of short temper that gets him kicked out of the Lion's Head Inn where he has been staying. Jenny Hall, (Una O'Connor) the excitable tavern keeper provides a comedic counterpoint to his overly intense nature. And I think these two define the two classes; Griffin's upper class roots countered by the salt of the earth Halls.
Frustrated by his failure to find a cure, and discovered because of the Halls' interference, the cat is out of the bag, and the Invisible Man is out of his clothes. As he casts away his knickers, he seems to cast away all his morals, and the last shreds of his sanity. He kills a police inspector, and escapes, and the reign of terror of the Invisible Man begins.
He needs a partner, a visible lackey; he chooses his coworker, and rival for the affections of Griffin's Fiancée, Dr. Arthur Kemp (William Harrigan). Kemp is a scientific anomaly, a weasel that walks like a man. Kemp can no more fail to betray Griffin than the now quite insane Griffin can fail to seek revenge.
It is typical for a James Whale production that the beautiful people, Griffin's fiancée Flora Cranley (Gloria Stuart) and her father Dr. Cranley (Henry Travers) are rather pallid and limp, while the Halls, Jenny and Herbert (Forrester Harvey) are much more memorable.
H. G. Wells was one of the great visionaries of Science Fiction. It is odd that he so eloquently predicted the harsh reality of side effects. Our modern society must deal with a elixir of super powers as well, steroids. Instead of invisible, they make you look better naked, but like the elixir, they have nasty side effects as well, not megalomania, but the almost Jekyll and Hyde effects of ‘Roid Rage.
The special effects are, compared to Avatar, laughable. But they are actually still quite functional. This was 1933. Talkies were still new. And yet they pushed the envelope to the limit of what was possible in those days. It speaks to James Whale's mastery that the film stands up so well today. While Whale will always be defined by Frankenstein, it is notable that he had two monstrous sons.
It is also noteworthy that James Whale's distinctive humor permeates his horror movies, a spice that makes the main fare more savory. And since his work influenced every thing that came after, the effect still carries on.
The most important message, though, ultimately is that no trick of science is capable of overcoming society. For all his vaunted power, he is one man, and by working together, society counters his considerable advantages, and order blessedly prevails. But do not lose sight of the corollary; society will always work together to destroy the unique.
So while most people think they would like to be invisible, you have to ask, always? Invisible men stand out more than anyone else. And you aren't as powerful as you might think. Maybe flying would be fun...nah, put me down for invisibility.
This is entered into my "Let There Be Lips!" Rocky Horror Write Off.
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