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.
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.