Sunday, November 24, 2019
The Invisible Man (1933) directed by James Whales
This first film version of the H.G. Wells novel is true to the source material in most regards and gave audiences of the time a visual treat in terms of special effects. It is both funny and horrifying at the same time as the main character slips not just further into madness from the drugs that made him invisible but he also becomes violent and cruel.
While a film well worth watching, it does has its problems - some of them coming directly from the novel. The invisible man is in the book and movie - a total douche bag. I read the book again recently and watched the film just this past week for comparison. Wells' mad scientist is pretty much a horrible jerk and terrible person throughout while Whales' version is supposed to be more sympathetic. But he isn't. He has a fiancee in the screen version and she and her father inexplicably try to protect him throughout. We never see couple together until the death scene at the very end and the dialogue about him before he mysteriously left to work on his experiments seems to strongly suggest that while the invisibility drugs made him mad, he was a jerk long before he took them. Not to mention they are protecting a man who has killed over one hundred people over the course of the screenplay! Including a co-worker who of the father who was the a friend of the daughter! It is really impossible to fee anything but relief when he dies at the end with his fiancee by his side. We also never see him, literally, until he dies so it's hard to make any sort of connection with him.
Apart from the plot and character issues I had, the opening shot is amazing and the effects still work. There was a lot more care and skill put into the invisible effects than in the following sequels and the supporting cast is mostly humorous which makes it seem extra cruel when the invisible man kills some of them without a thought. As in pretty much all the Universal horror classics, the look of the invisible man is the one we all know and is the default representation of the character to this day.
It is easy to see how this film became a classic and it was pretty risky to make such an unlikable character as the main focus of the story. Oh, and if that theme music seem really familiar it was reused in the Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon series, which sort of adds an unintended camp flavour to it here.