Invisible Man, The (1933)

Invisible Man, The (1933)

“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
  • Horror
  • 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.”

Must See?
Yes. Due primarily to its nifty special effects, this is considered a genuine classic of early horror.


  • Genuine Classic


One thought on “Invisible Man, The (1933)

  1. This is clearly in the ‘no-brainer must list’.

    As a young ff, over and over I saw director Whale’s horror films – now and forever among the best of the era – and always imagined he was a rather serious fellow. That feeling was cemented when I took in films of his outside that genre, things like ‘Show Boat’. He just seemed, overall, a very classy director.

    As I continued to grow, I began noticing bits here and there in his monster movies that made the ‘black comedy’ aspect in them more apparent. But so little was still really known about Whale – and it wasn’t until Christopher Bram’s book ‘Father of Frankenstein’ was developed more fully and satisfyingly as Bill Condon’s film ‘Gods and Monsters’ that I came to see Whale’s real, more humorous attitude toward his ‘scary’ pictures.

    Here, Whale’s enjoyment seems most prominent in the performance by Una O’Connor as the prototypical, innkeeper’s no-nonsense wife – who nevertheless dives head-first into hysteria when nonsense occurs. I can imagine Whale laughing himself silly behind the camera during, for example, the exchange between O’Connor and her husband Forrester Harvey when she believes he’s been murdered:

    O’Connor: (between screams; she tends to scream at times) I know he’s dead!!!
    Harvey: Oh, shut up…

    Watching ‘TIM’ again now, one does notice that the effects are slightly creaky (occasionally one of them doesn’t completely come off) – but they remain very impressive.

    As does Rains, dependable as ever.

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