For Reel

The Invisible Man (1933)
November 6, 2016, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: James Whale
4 Stars
the-invisible-manThe fact that Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) is only a physical presence on screen when wrapped in surgical bandages suggests an unknowability that is echoed by the refusal of the film to delve into the motivations of the once promising assistant. If Universal horror films either go at lengths to render their villains as sympathetic (Frankenstein’s monster, The Wolf Man) or simply evil incarnate (Dracula), The Invisible Man defies similar categorization—although his early pranks seem to be done in relatively good fun, the act of knocking over a baby’s carriage provides a window into his increasing power-hungry madness. In fact, his acts in the latter half of the picture become so horrific that it is a wonder the film ends with a sentimental deathbed scene in which one is meant to consider Griffin’s rise and fall. This concluding elegy is given power by the fact that director James Whale never shows us flashbacks to reveal Griffin’s rise, rather allows the audience to fill in the blanks. As with all of the Universal horror pictures, The Invisible Man moves briskly with a terrific sense of urgency, and Rains’ vocal performance is memorably spiteful and cruel—whereas Rains often played a calculated, debonair villain, his Griffin becomes increasingly barbaric.