Special effects are, unequivocally, one of the most crucial parts of todays’ moviemaking manner, as well as a key to attracting the attention. Hence, such milestones as “The Invisible Man”, constitute a remarkable pieces to watch for those, who feel like only 21th century might raise the question: “How did they do it?”. Although being also a bit artless at delivering the spine-chilling experience nowadays, James Whale’s movie grasps the attention from the very beginning to the very end.
“The Invisible Man” tells a story of a scientist, whose exploratory frenzy reaches its peak as Jack Griffin becomes invisible – a consequence of some chemical substance pumped into his veins. Seeking for a place, where he can calmly find a way back to his human posture again, he also becomes a victim of his own, impeccable discovery. As his path to discovery makes place for feverish pursuit to gain power, combined forces of his former co-worker, police officers and local community members, try to cease the era of the Invisible Man’s terror in the region. The only person, prominent enough to somehow influence the going-crazy Jack Griffin, is his beloved Flora Cranley, daughter of doctor Cranley.
Although “The Invisible Man” was not the peak of James Whale’s artworks, as his finest achievement will remain “Frankenstein” (1931), I adore this piece of fine oldie way more than anything else he directed. Given a neatly-written script by the trio Sheriff, Wylie and Sturges, Whale grasped the ghastly idea of an insane person, whose supernatural state stands for a great danger for the local community. Despite the rather curbed technology these days, the covert emergence of the main character quickly becomes the source of widespread terror, as Jack Griffin intentionally ravages the community.
The story itself outranges majority of other thrillers with some supernatural flick going on. The plot is gripping in a “vintage” manner, mainly thanks to the idea of the progressive psychological transformations of Jack Griffin, whose actions, driven by the chemical substance filling his blood system, spread havoc everywhere. Whale uses the remarkable, only voice-based performance by Claude Rains as the foundation of the movie – God, yes! The sinister laugh, kind of a Joker early reminisce, curdles blood in veins and adds up to a baneful existence of the Invisible Man. Nothing but a classy performance, worth watching for all true fans of the most demonic figures in the history of cinema. It came as a surprise to me, that Claude Rains, who have been nominated four times for the Oscar prize, never received any prize for “The Invisible Man” – pitiful fact it is.
Some parts of this horror classic are quite intriguing, some might even be called ridiculous. Just to avoid being groundless, Jenny Hall’s role was one of the most preposterous characters ever created, with her laughable screaming and bulging eyes with this psycho inside. Nevertheless, her ludicrous acting somehow fits just perfectly the overall image of “The Invisible Man”, breaking the tension built up by noteworthy Claude Rains.
There is something scary in the figure of the director himself as well. Being one of the undisputable pioneers in horror genre, James Whale never made it to the Pantheon. Declaring himself homosexual, which in these days was a spirited deed, caused him to turn from horror movies to different genres, where, lightly put, Whale was rather mediocre. The story of James Whale ends with his suicide – the aftermath of his overall life and work is quite interesting, especially from the perspective of some cinematic historians, who analyzed his films as to prove his sexuality. Nonetheless, none of such proofs were found in “The Invisible Man”, but some historians claim that “The Bride of Frankenstein” was the director’s homosexual manifesto.
To return to the movie itself, I intend to agree that it’s one of the movies that made me dig into the “forgotten classics” and began writing about them. It is one of those old classics I will come back to with this heart-warming feeling. And apart from some criticism it might raise – Claude Rains would totally nail majority of psycho-roles nowadays.