“He’s meddled in things men should leave alone.”
A scientist (Claude Rains) who has discovered the secret to invisibility slowly goes mad from effects of the drug; soon he’s on a wild killing rampage, with dreams of taking over the world.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Black Comedy
- Claude Rains Films
- H.G. Wells Films
- James Whale Films
- Mad Doctors and Scientists
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “splendid adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel” — which “begins humorously, [then] becomes scary” — possesses truly impressive special effects by John P. Fulton: the first time Rains unwinds the bandages from his invisible head, even savvy modern audiences will find it hard not to jump. Although he’s not visible until the final 1/2 minute of the film, Rains (who Peary nominates for an Alternate Oscar as best actor of the year) makes a memorable screen debut as the titular anti-hero, who flits around causing havoc and deriving enormous delight from flaunting his newfound powers. The excellent script by R.C. Sheriff and Philip Wylie — part sci-fi, part black comedy, part thriller — keeps us in continual suspense, and makes us cringe at Rains’ psychopathic behavior (he wantonly tips a baby carriage over, and causes a train to derail “just for kicks”). The most surreal moment in the film has to be when Rains — wearing just a stolen pair of pants — skips down a lane, singing “Here we go gathering nuts in May…” — there’s never been another cinematic villain quite like him.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Claude Rains in his screen debut as the Invisible Man
- Una O’Connor as the hysterical innkeeper who insists that Rains must leave
- John P. Fulton’s impressive special effects
- Good use of extreme angles
- A fine sense of black humor: “We’ll begin with a reign of terror. A few murders here and there. Murders of great men, murders of small men, just to make sure we make no distinction.”
Yes. Due primarily to its nifty special effects, this is considered a genuine classic of early horror.