The Good, The Mad, AND The Lonely: The Invisible Man

This post is part of the Movie Scientist Blogathon hosted by Christina Wehner and Ruth at Silver Screenings!

Here at Castle Blogferatu, we have a special affinity for scientists as our own good Dr. Terror will attest. Oddly enough, as much as I love horror movies, there are very few times I’ve wanted to be any of the characters. Literature, comic books, other movies, this happens to me all the damn time: Sherlock Holmes, Merlin, The Man With No Name, Zorro, Michael Morbius, and so on ad nauseum.

But from horror movies?

Not so often.

The Invisible Man has always been a notable exception. Now, to clarify, I didn’t want to go insane, rule the world as a despot, or start killing people.

Well…

No! No! Enough of that!

No, I wanted to be The Invisible Man for two reasons.

First, he wasn’t entirely wrong. Mad? Yes. Avaricious? Clearly. But wrong? No, not entirely. It’s a question of motivation really. Sure, he wanted his name to be included with those of all the great scientists, but his original motivation came from, of all places, love. And as we all know, there’s nothing greater.

“Except for a nice MLT–mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomatoes are ripe. They’re so perky. I love that.”

Sorry. I do that. My point is, Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) was at first driven for his desire to provide for Flora (Gloria Stuart), his dear love. Sure, this desire gets warped beyond recognition, but its origins were not entirely misguided.

Second, I have to admit, I’d love to be able to become invisible and steal shit and wreak vengeance. I don’t mean assaulting the general public or depriving businesses of hard earned income. No, I wanna target thieves, muggers, bullies, corporate dirtbags, maybe a few obnoxious assholes. Kind of a misanthropic Robin Hood.

As for the movie itself, it has its ups and downs. Some of the backstory and plot advancement provided through the unlikeable Kemp (William Harrigan) and the lackluster Cranley (Henry Travers, Clarence from the godawful It’s A Wonderful Life) bogs things down a bit.

James Whale also assaults us with treats us to a great deal of Jenny’s (Una O’Connor) ear-splitting shrieks throughout the first twenty minutes of the film. Incidentally, her look (thankfully not her performance) is nicely recalled by Cloris Leachman in Young Frankenstein.

But all of this is easily forgivable and forgettable in light of Claude Rains whose performance is strong, iconic, and imminently watchable. Ironic and not bad for someone whose face you don’t get to actually see until the closing moments of the film. You have to admire that as well as wonder how any actor can be convinced to play such a part.

His over-the-top portrayal (it has to be–he’s invisible) is enhanced rather than overshadowed by the special effects. Achieved with wire work and a sort of 1933 equivalent of green-screening (using black velvet), the effects still hold up nicely today.

For obvious reasons, I originally planned to talk about Griffin as one of The Mad for this blogathon, but after rewatching The Invisible Man, I decided he actually qualified as all three, and ultimately, for me, The Lonely. It’s one of the cruel ironies of the film that his initial desire to benefit Flora is the very thing that forces him away from her. And it’s Flora he wants to see in his final moments.

Finally, there’s a symbolic aspect to The Invisible Man that may provide its cruelest irony, a level on which Griffin represents some of the more disturbing aspects of Post WWI Modernism. Mustard gas, aerial assault, mechanization, the ability to kill many people without having to lay eyes on them. Science and technology brought madness and destruction with devastating ramifications.

Early in the film, Griffin, in near desperation, mutters, “There’s a way back, you fool. There must be a way back” Sadly, by the end, we see there is no way back for him. By implication, not for us either.

14 thoughts on “The Good, The Mad, AND The Lonely: The Invisible Man

  1. I find H.G. Wells’ books creepy, but I too had a childhood desire to be invisible (in my case, not to thrwart the corporate robber barons, but just so I could run away from home and steal a lot of money and live by myself, in order to thwart the childhood labor laws).

    I think you have pinned all the underlying meanings of this movie. But I disagree, in that I think the Invisible Man was more mad than lonely. Consider that “madness to loneliness” might have equalled cause and effect . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello, our misanthropic Robin Hood! I have, at times, wanted to be invisible, especially during embarrassing moments when my face was bright red. (But let’s not get into that.)

    This review is a terrific read, and an excellent analysis of the film. Claude Rains is SO good in this role that it’s difficult to imagine anyone else. And I agree his character (and condition) are reflections of post WWI fears and memories.

    Thanks for joining the blogathon, and for bringing The Invisible Man with you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How ironic that Claude Rain’s movie career making role was an invisible one! I so agree about his performance. He’s one of my favorite actors and I could watch him in films over and over…even in films where we can’t see him. 🙂

    I like you’re case about how lonely he is and how is original motivation was partly love, which makes his death so poignant at the end, despite all the terror he has caused.

    So glad you could join the blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a fine, interesting article. I enjoyed reading it, and I look forward to reading more of your articles in the future.

    By the way, I would like to invite you to join my blogathon, “The Great Breening Blogathon:” https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2017/09/07/extra-the-great-breening-blogathon/. It is celebrating the life and work of Joseph Breen, the enforcer of the Motion Picture Production Code between 1934 and 1954. As we honor his birthday, which is on October 14, we will be discussing and analyzing the Code era, breening films from other eras, and writing about our own ideas for classic movies. One doesn’t have to agree with the Code and Mr. Breen to enjoy that! I hope you will do me the honor of joining. We could really use your talent! I just know you would enjoy breening a pre-Code horror film, discussing a Code horror film, or considering how the Code changed the horror genre.

    Yours Hopefully,

    Tiffany Brannan

    Liked by 1 person

Leave A Comment (Before It's Too Late)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s