The Invisible Man (1933) is the greatest science fiction horror movie I’ve never seen. I literally didn’t see the original Invisible Man until the remake was announced. Even though it was always part of the official lineup of classic Universal monsters. The Invisible Man has black & white cinematography and an easily identifiable monster, but it’s very different compared to Dracula, Frankenstein, or The Mummy. H. G. Wells established himself as a true science fiction master when he wrote The Invisible Man in 1897. Frankenstein director James Whale lent his vision to a mostly faithful adaptation, but Boris Karloff never fully committed to the unseen title role. Newcomer Claude Rains makes an impression by only using his voice.
Dr. Jack Griffin is an ordinary scientist who experimented with chemicals and turned himself invisible. Though he can’t be seen, a pair of dark goggles and a face wrapped in bandages make him iconic. Griffin attempts to finish his work in an English Inn, but constant interruptions cause him to snap. An Invisible Man is a terrifying thought, because he really can rule the world if he was as insane as Griffin. The Invisible Man is groundbreaking thanks to early 30’s special effects that are still convincing today. Griffin’s invisibility was achieved through the impressive use of compositing shots filmed against black velvet. Objects are moved and clothing can walk on its own.
The Invisible Man is also unique for its dark comedy. Griffin has a silly laugh and plays harmless pranks on English villagers. Then he becomes a genuinely sinister threat who murders a lot more people than you might expect. Henry Travers plays Dr. Cranley, the scientist who realizes Griffin’s madness is linked to a chemical he used to become invisible. A very young Gloria Stewart plays Jack’s concerned fiancée Flora. Since every monster movie needs a love story. William Harrigan plays Dr. Kemp, the unwilling visible partner of the Invisible Man. Staying totally invisible is a lot more complicated than it seems. A manhunt is placed on Griffin, but he’s too smart to make mistakes. Griffin’s face is only seen at the end when the police finally manage to outsmart him. The Invisible Man is a boundary pushing ghost story with a science fiction twist.
Followed by: The Invisible Man Returns