Movie: The Invisible Man (1933)

Installment three of RHPS reference binge is from the lyrics:

Claude Rains was the Invisible Man…

IMDb synopsis: A scientist finds a way of becoming invisible, but in doing so, he becomes murderously insane. Taglines: Catch me if you can! Runtime for the movie is 71 minutes. The original release date for The Invisible Man was 13 November 1933.

After seeing this, I now want to actually read the book.

On the movie posters you see “Carl Laemmle Presents”. Carl Laemmle was an American filmmaker and the founder and owner (until 1934) of Universal Pictures. He produced or worked on over 400 films. Regarded as one of the most important of the early film pioneers, Laemmle was born in what is now Germany.

The Invisible Man (1933)
Claude Rains and daughter Jessica

On the DVD short documentary, Claude Rains’ daughter tells of a time when her father brought her to see a re-release of this movie in the theater in Pennsylvania, years after it was made. It was bitterly cold and his face was completely covered by a hat and scarf. When he spoke to ask for the tickets, the attendant immediately recognized his voice and wanted to let them in for free. Rains was quite upset at this and demanded that he pay full price.

The Invisible Man is part of the Universal Studios ‘Shock Theater’ package. The package included 52 pre-1948 classic horror films from Universal Studios released for television syndication in October 1957 by Screen Gems, the television subsidiary of Columbia Pictures. The following year the ‘Son of Shock’ package would be released which added 20 more features.

According to information given on TCM before the movie is shown, Claude Rains was also chosen for the role because he spoke with such clarity and could be easily understood. This was important since his face was covered for almost the entire film.

Now for a recap:

It is a cold wintry night, it is 1/2 mile to Iring. The mysterious man makes it to the Lion’s Head Pub where the winter snow didn’t stop the large number of customers from coming out.

Inside there is loud conversation and a man playing a piano. What a great piano bit! The musician stops, turns on the bench to the applauding crowd and nods his head. His buddy at the end of the piano puts in another quarter and it starts back up, the musician kind of jumps and turns back around to “play”. Great stuff!

Claude Rains in The Invisible Man (1933)

Well, hello stranger come on in with your funky cool glasses!

Claude Rains, Forrester Harvey, and Una O'Connor in The Invisible Man (1933)

The crowd parts and becomes silent as he approaches the bar and asks for a room and a fire and a private sitting room.

During the scenes with Una O’Connor, the hysterical pub landlady, James Whale struggled to control his own laughter, as he adored O’ Connor’s humor.

Una O'Connor in The Invisible Man (1933)

“If you ask me, he’s a criminal fleeing from justice.” The rumors are flying in the pub downstairs as Una prepares his meal to take up to the stranger. He is still in his coat, he tells her he does not want to be disturbed and she leaves. But a twist, she forgot the sugar and when she comes back in she finds him partially revealed, well as revealed as one could be, being invisible and all.

Claude Rains in The Invisible Man (1933)

But she only sees the bandages. She returns to tell the crowd it must’ve been a ‘orrible accident. Interesting observation: some of the characters have random accents and a lot sound American.

We move to a scientist’s office where a daughter laments that she is worried about Jack and Dad, the scientist, tells her it is ok, he will return…

Gloria Stuart and Henry Travers in The Invisible Man (1933)

“It’s a good thing to go away to be alone when you are finishing an experiment.” It appears that dad is not worried at all. Her father’s (Dr Cranley) assistant, Dr Kemp is concerned too. He says “he meddled in things that were better left alone.” Straightforward scientists don’t need to hide their work. Ahhhh this man is in love with Flora, he wants her for himself.

Claude Rains in The Invisible Man (1933)

Back at the pub, Jack is trying to work on an antidote. When Una tries to deliver food he becomes angry and slams the door. She is having NONE of this madness. She sends her husband, Herbert, up to kick him out. Herbert wants to wait until the man cools off. But, of course, she won’t hear of it. GO NOW!

Claude Rains in The Invisible Man (1933)

“There must be a way back!” Jack tells Herbert, more to himself than the man who just entered the room. Jack explains that Herbert needs to leave. Jack begs, Herbert refuses. “The wife says if you don’t go, she is. So it’s gotta be you.” Jack becomes violent and throws the man out, he falls down the stairs. “Go and get the police!”

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The patrons find the constable out in the street and convince him to come back and to do something!

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They have established that there is no lock on the door so the Constable (and all the pub patrons) walk right in.

Claude Rains and E.E. Clive in The Invisible Man (1933)

Jack tries to warn them: “you don’t know what you’re doing”. They are determined. “You are crazy to know who I am, aren’t you… I’ll show you who and what I am!” As he becomes agitated, he goes a little mad!

Claude Rains, Ted Billings, and E.E. Clive in The Invisible Man (1933)

The Constable heistates in what almost sounds like pity: “Look, he’s all eaten away.” Jack has a maniacal laugh. And continues to remove bandages, throwing them at the people! He is mad, I say! MAD!

Claude Rains in The Invisible Man (1933)

In order to achieve the effect that Claude Rains wasn’t there when his character took off the bandages, James Whale had Rains dressed completely in black velvet and filmed him in front of a black velvet background.

“If he gets the rest of his clothes off we will never catch him in a million years!” They were right! After a few minutes of disrobing and a keystone cops routing ensues. Jack, now invisible, describes his plot to rule the world as the Invisible Man! They bar the door, the windows are thrown open. He then strangles the cop who runs to the window (not killing him though), tricking them to believe he has escaped. He makes his way out of the room and destroys things as he goes.

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The bicycle with no apparent rider might be my favorite scene. It just rolling along through the town. Then being thrown at the people, gawking. All the people in the town are terrorized as he tricks them along the way. The next day there were newspaper articles being read on the street.

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Back at the original lab, Dr Kemp and Dr Cranley are searching for clues. Jack has burned all the paperwork they think. He has packed up all the things he was working with. But wait! They find a list of chemicals. The last on the list is monocane. Terrible drug that is no longer used, made from a plant grown in India. It was tested on a dog once. It turned the dog stark white and made it raving mad. They decide to tell the police that he has disappeared but nothing more.

Dr Kemp is at home when the door behind him opens, as if on its own. On the radio there is a break about a village who is suffering from a mania where they believe there is an invisible man. But then the radio turns off and there is a voice, Jack’s voice, telling Kemp not to be afraid. “It’s me, Jack Griffin.” Things move, as if on their own. “Sit down unless you want me to knock your brains out! Sit down!”

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He brings him bandages and pajamas to put on. Jack tells him to go downstairs and to draw the curtains. He tells Kemp that if he raises a finger against him he will regret it. “If you try to escape by the window I will follow you and no one in the world can save you.” This man is dastardly.

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Back at the bar, the Chief of Police is believing it is a hoax! But back at Kemp’s it looks like Jack is all Hugh Heffner

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Jack tells him of the thousands of experiments it took to get here and explains he had hoped to make an antidote but the fools at the pub wouldn’t let him work. And suddenly Jack realized the power he had, the power to rule. He will put the world right so they will all grovel at his feet. He describes he will murder so many people, great and little men alike. He forces Kemp to agree to be his assistant. They need to go retrieve his notebooks from the pub!

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They return to the pub and Griffin goes in, with no way of them knowing he is there. “Who is there, that opened the door!” He makes his way through the pub undetected because they thought it was the boys outside trying to watch through the windows. Jack finds his notebooks and throws them through the window at Kemp. He then goes to the meeting and starts wrecking havoc . He strangles the Chief and kills him (for calling him a hoax). He jumps in Kemp’s car and they escape.

 

 

Back at the station, Dr Cranley is there to tell them that Jack is missing. But back at Kemp’s, Jack is hatching his plans. Then he removes his bandages and goes to bed. At the pub they are carrying out the body of the chief. Federal Agents are out to hunt Jack down. They will comb the country for twenty miles around. He may be invisible but truly he is only human. We must avoid a panic. Out they go to beat the bushes to look for tracks left behind.

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We go through a scene with a radio newsbreak and all of the various homes, stores, people who hear. There is a reward for helping in his capture. People bar their doors. They nail their windows closed. We see Jack in his bed, Kemp is having second thoughts. He calls Dr Cranley to give him an update. Cranley tells him “Only you and I know it’s Griffin. Wait until the morning and I will come help.” Flora has overheard and her father tells her everything.

Gloria Stuart and Henry Travers in The Invisible Man (1933)

Dr Kemp is not waiting! He calls the police. But so many crackpots have called and they don’t take him seriously. Flora tries to convince her father that she can convince him to turn himself in. She runs to Kemp’s house to help. Kemp has been discovered by Jack. Jack makes him go to bed to rest, they have a busy day ahead. But through the window they see Flora and Dr Cranley coming down the sidewalk. Jack goes to prepare himself to “receive Flora…alone.”

Claude Rains and Gloria Stuart in The Invisible Man (1933)

As Jack rants to Flora about taking over the world, he strikes a pose typical of Italy’s Fascist leader, Benito Mussolini. Late in the year of the film’s release, Adolf Hitler took power in Germany.

Claude Rains and Gloria Stuart in The Invisible Man (1933)

He confesses to Flora that he had hoped to rise above poverty to achieve fame and glory and to win her love. He tells her about his ideas of selling his secret to countries and the one who receives it can take over the world. He is devolving into madness. Flora is trying to convince him to let Dr Cranley help.

Through the window he sees the police, tracking him. He realizes that Kemp has given up his secret. He tells Flora to leave. And he locks himself in the room. The police surround the house.

They ring the house, holding hands and move in, in an attempt to not let him through. But Kemp is standing in an open window and Jack comes through but as he leaves he tells Kemp that tomorrow at 10PM he will kill him. Outside another keystone cops moment happens and he gets away.

Back at Kemp’s the inspector is interrogating Dr Cranley, he knows Cranley knows the Invisible Man’s identity. Kemp screams “It’s Griffin! And he is going to kill me!”

There are search parties everywhere. Griffin kills off one of the men looking for him and throws him over a cliff. When someone comes to help he throws him over too. Then he kills a man at the train station and flips levres, causing a train collision that no one survives. He robs a bank. Walking away with the drawer and throwing money into the crowd.

Dr Cranley and Flora hope against hope that the police can take him without harming him.

Dudley Digges and William Harrigan in The Invisible Man (1933)

The officers are hatching a plan. They know he will be at Kemp’s and they will use him as bait. They are going to use paint guns! Truly genius! They go to Kemp’s house to help usher him from the station back to his home. In a comedy of errors, a cat sets off their defenses while Jack climbs in the backseat of Kemp’s escape vehicle. As promised, it is 10PM. He ties him up, puts him back in the car and then sends it over the cliff to his death!

Jack takes refuge in a barn, under some hay. A farmer receives a surprise a he hears invisible snoring. He goes to the police office. “Excuse me sir, there’s breathing in my barn.” They return to the farm. They circle again, holding hands.

The Invisible Man (1933)

As Jack tries to escape, he leaves footprints.

The Invisible Man (1933)

They are able to shoot him. They take him to the hospital where Dr Cranley is told “he is close to the end”. They bring in Flora to tell him goodbye. The effect of the drugs will ebb out, with his blood.

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She sits at his bedside as he passes away. As he dies, he reappears.

End scene.

These were the movies I watched as a kid. Loved them then, love them now. This movie begs the question, if you were not seen and could get away with things at great length, what would you do with that power?

During the riot at the pub, a technician can be heard yelling, “Stay on camera!”

Claude Rains and James Whale in The Invisible Man (1933)

Although he has the lead in the film and his character is onscreen for 95% of the film, Claude Rains never actually “appears” onscreen until the very last moment.

Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) is one of the most bloodthirsty villains of the old Universal horror films, with a total of four murders depicted directly on-screen, the murders of eighteen search-party members off-screen, and the derailment of a train which results in one hundred deaths. In total, Dr. Griffin kills 122 people before he is killed.

In this movie the Invisible Man is a villain. There’s also a 1970s TV show which presents him in a sympathetic, humorous light. That movie stars Chevy Chase.

The Invisible Man (1933)

Gloria Stuart would go on to later fame as Old Rose in 1997’s TITANIC.

Gloria Stuart in The Invisible Man (1933)
Gloria Stuart in Titanic (1997)

She did not enjoy working opposite Claude Rains. While filming their scenes, she claimed Rains kept backing her into the scenery and hampering her chances to perform. James Whale had to keep everything on an even keel by reminding Rains that he had to share scenes with his leading lady.

Claude Rains and Gloria Stuart in The Invisible Man (1933)
Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, E.E. Clive, William Harrigan, and Una O'Connor in The Invisible Man (1933)

Claude Rains is the only actor in the film whose character is identified in the credits. We are not told which roles the other actors play, even though the cast is listed twice: at the beginning and at the end. Rains is billed as “The Invisible One” in the opening credits and as “The Invisible Man” in the closing credits.

Starring:

Claude Rains Dr. Jack Griffin aka The Invisible Man
Gloria Stuart Flora Cranley
William Harrigan Dr. Arthur Kemp
Henry Travers Dr. Cranley
Una O’Connor Jenny Hall
Forrester Harvey Herbert Hall
Holmes Herbert Chief of Police
E.E. Clive Constable Jaffers
Dudley Digges Chief Detective
Harry Stubbs Inspector Bird
Donald Stuart Inspector Lane
Merle Tottenham Millie
The Invisible Man (1933)
Wells - The Invisible Man - Pearson cover 1897.jpg

The Invisible Man is a science fictionnovel by H. G. Wells. Originally serialized in Pearsons Weekly in 1897, it was published as a novel the same year. The Invisible Man of the title is Griffin, a scientist who has devoted himself to research into optics and invents a way to change a body’s refractive index to that of air so that it neither absorbs nor reflects light and thus becomes invisible. He successfully carries out this procedure on himself, but fails in his attempt to reverse it. An enthusiast of random and irresponsible violence, Griffin has become an iconic character in horror fiction.

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H.G. Wells (1866-1946) at his desk.

The basic framework of the story and the characters’ names are largely the same as in H.G. Wells’ novel, but there are several great differences, including:

  • The novel takes place in the 1890s; the film takes place in 1933.
  • In the novel, Griffin remains almost a completely mysterious person, with no fiancée or friends; in the film, he is engaged to a woman and has the support of her father and his associate.
  • In the novel, Griffin is already insane before he makes himself invisible; in the film, it is the invisibility drug that causes his madness.
  • In the novel, Kemp lives; in the film, Griffin kills him.

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