Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man; fantasy, USA, 1933; D: James Whale, S: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan

A stranger covered in bandages enters a tavern one snowy night and rents a room. The people are suspicious of his secluded nature, and quickly find out why: the man is invisible and runs away into the city. He is Griffin, a scientist who accidentally discovered a formula for invisibility and now wants to find a way to reverse it. However, he is turning mad and slays a police officer. A nation wide man hunt ensues, with Griffin's girlfriend Flora trying to find out what is wrong with him. Griffin causes further crimes, such as derailing a train which kills dozens of people, and even kills his own associate, Kemp. Seeing he is not to be reasoned with, the police finally surrounds him in a barn and shoots him.

The first feature film adaptation of H. G. Wells' classic novel, "The Invisible Man" collected critical acclaim with a reason and stood the test of time, despite a few omissions (for instance, the main character played by Claude Rains is not actually seen until the final scenes, thereby eliminating the prologue of how he got into this situations in the first place) and elements of the naive. By including some disturbing takes on this concept such as the scene where the invisible man strangles a police officer to death or pushes another man off the cliff, director James Whale stepped into the territory reminiscent of his previous film "Frankenstein" not only in horror, but also in theme since the invisible man increasingly becomes a freak and an outcast of society, which manifests in his aggressive madness. Even though the opening act is somewhat slow, the narrative quickly improves later on by exploiting rich possibilities of the premise (in order to be sure that the invisible man is not inside the room, the police commissioner orders seven men to spread a net and walk from one end of the wall to the other) and featuring surprisingly good special effects for that time with a lot of imagination (the invisible man walking in trousers). However, Carpenter's "Memoirs of an Invisible Man", filmed 59 years later, were even better since they offered a clever metafilm solution of actually showing the main character to the audience here and there, thereby strengthening the empathy for his fate.


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