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The Wonder of the Cinema

#28 The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man

Based on the 1897 H.G. Wells novel of the same name, The Invisible Man stars Claude Raines as the Jack Griffin.  Seeking fame, fortune and power to win the girl of his dreams, the stunning Gloria Stuart (better known to modern audiences as the elderly Rose in James Cameron’s Titanic), Jack Griffin secretly develops a formula for invisibility.  However, unbeknownst to him the drug he uses as a base causes not only invisibility but also madness.  The film opens with Jack Griffin, menacingly played by Claude Raines, already invisible and seeking the antidote.  By the end of the film he has cut a swath of death and destruction across the country… strangled police officers, men pushed into quarries, cars crashed off cliffs, a wrecked train and more.

Beneath the dark glasses and bandages is Claude Raines

Beneath the dark glasses and bandages is Claude Raines

Gloria Stuart and William Harrigan

Gloria Stuart and William Harrigan

James Whale’s direction in this 1933 offering is deft and creative, yet hindered by both the technology of the time and the methods of the studios for filming.  The dolly shots and other tracking elements are occasionally jerky.  The depth of field in several shots is so shallow that while one character is in sharp focus another whispering in her ear is already showing signs of fuzziness.  These can distract the viewer from the quality of the shot, the acting, the story which are all otherwise top-notch.  These shortcomings are likely caused by the cameras, lenses, and film used at the time.  The scenes set indoors all suffer from the set construction methods of the studios at the time.  No ceilings are seen.  Thus when the director wants a shot of the entire room the walls seem to stretch up to impossible heights regardless of whether or not such buildings would ever have had fifteen or twenty foot high ceilings.  Suddenly a police station, a country inn, a hospital room all seem to have the grandeur of a mansion with such lofty ceilings.

The Invisible Man is a classic low-budget film that zips along at a very economical 71 minute run time.  Available on Netflix, give this classic science fiction-suspense film a try.

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About Rob Sterner

English teacher, Film buff, Filmmaker, Writer, Musician, Photographer, Runner, Taoist, Thinker, List maker...

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