The Invisible Man (1933)


Scientist Griffin disappears from his lab, leaving his colleagues Kemp and Cranley wondering where he has gone. Meanwhile a strange man arrives at an inn, covered in bandages, hat and long coat and acting mysterious. When the other residents of the inn claim that this man is ‘invisible’, police assume they are suffering some sort of group delusion. Meanwhile Griffin arrives back to see Kemp, clearly (sorry!) invisible and suffering side effects of madness. With his friends trying to help him and the police trying to catch him, Griffin’s inability to find a cure continues to eat at his sanity, sending him into a frenzy.

The first thing to note is that any film that is over 70 years old will clearly not hold the same appeal to modern audiences as films made recently do. Those looking to this film to provide the same effects or violence as seen in Hollow Man (for example) will not only be disappointed but they will also be open to accusations of being simply unfair. However, viewed on its own terms, this is a great little film that has impressive effects, an exciting and tragic story mixed with some good (if a little hammy) acting. The basic plot works well, considering that it expects us to be right there with it without any real back story about who Griffin was. I’m not sure why this was done this way (constraints of running time maybe?) but it works well as the film is to fast moving to be slowed by a long build up. It still manages to show Griffin’s descent into madness despite the fact he is already losing at the start of the film.

The effects work well even if they (obviously) don’t compare to what computers can do, however they still look good and the lead character is convincingly invisible; if anything it is actually more effective because the ‘money shots’ are sparingly used and then used to good effect. The pace of the film really helps as it is remains exciting and enjoyable all the way to the inevitable conclusion. The acting of the cast helps although it is Rains’ film the whole way to the final scene (where he is finally seen!). He may overplay his madness but who can complain when it is such fun? What impressed me is that he is either invisible or behind a mask for the vast majority of the film but yet still manages to make a big impression regardless. Stuart didn’t impress me one bit and seemed like her character would have been important with backstory – but without it she just came across as a simpering starlet with little involvement in the story, trying to build a human side that was not the focus of the rest of the film. Harrigan and Travers are convincing and the support cast all run around and scream accordingly.

Overall this is an enjoyable film that has good effects and an enjoyable plot. The script could have done more to create more of a human story and draw more emotion from the audience but the fast pace and convincing thrills cover this up well. I was taken by how dark the material was – I never expected the ‘hero’ of the film to kill innocents, this helped me get into it because I was quite shocked by it; this was again more effective than the graphic and obvious gore of modern versions. Not a perfect film but a classic one and rightly so!