RJ Bayley Reviews: The Invisible Man

Perhaps its a little taken a little too for granted that the wonderful Universal horrors are old. Saying a film came out in 1933 is a bit too much of an abstraction however, and doesn’t really communicate just how old a film is. For legendary director James Whale’s The Invisible Man did come out in 1933, and that makes it 81 years old. That’s knocking on the door of 100. Which is remarkable given that the film seems a lot of modern than half of the creature features like The Thing From Another World which came out in the 1950s. That’s probably the definition of a timeless movie.

Claude Rains is stunning as the title character Dr. Jack Griffin, who delivers a unique brand of malicious, intelligent, madness. Every word he utters is spat with a vicious, poisonous sting. His jarring movements, quick movements amplify the image of a man without an image. He is surely one of the greatest movie monsters ever created, standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow Universal alum Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein’s Monster. Rains is absolutely magnetic and the star of the show.

The plot also nicely plays out the murderous possibilities being invisible can hold. It seems fairly limited early on, but the film takes nicely shows you that a single pair of hands around a signalman’s neck can lead to the death of dozens on a derailed train. It works remarkably because the seemingly small scale nature of his power means it blindsides you when the full extent of his abilities are realized.

Only once does the plot falter (why do the police not just throw flour or paint everywhere when they know which house he’s in?) but its a trifling error.

The Invisible Man is one of the most marvellous movies made.


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