The Invisible Man (1933)
by Corinne Rizzo
On the second day, there was The Invisible Man, and it was good.
A film inspired by and named after the H. G. Wells novel, The Invisible Man is an interesting addition to this week’s selection of Universal Movie Monsters. This film, overlooked and underrated by some enthusiasts is a fearless and masterful peek into the evolution of the movie monsters.
Released years before The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man is a film based on a scientist who had chosen himself as his own test subject, ultimately turning himself invisible and it is at that point that the viewer is introduced to this scientist as The Invisible Man. There is no waiting for his character to develop and his unraveling comes quick.
The film opens as a walking bandage, outfitted in a suit, hat and glasses, stumbles through the snow, uphill to a tavern where he hopes to seek refuge from the cold and the privacy to bring himself back to a visible state. The hat and glasses are what cause this character to look suspicious at first, especially to the patrons of the bar, then at second glance, the bandages, gloves, and wig all come together to help the viewer understand that as we meet The Invisible Man, the damage has already been done. The viewer has no choice but to take interest in his advanced state as it has been given freely. The viewer is granted permission to sit back and watch what an invisible man will do.
Stating that every month for a year The Invisible Man has injected himself with a serum designed precisely for that purpose, the audience becomes aware that this is no ordinary scientist, though he might have started that way. The Invisible Man’s character quickly jumps from one of embarrassment and desperation of becoming normal again to a crazed mad man, as if this serum is destroying his better judgment by the minute. One minute, our man is beating himself up about not being able to reverse his discovery and the next, he is raving about how menacing it is to be invisible and how he could never be caught.
And with that notion our Invisible Man becomes quite maniacal, but also so straight forward with his madness that it comes across as slightly humorous. Directly communicating to his lab partner upon returning back to his home town that he will kill him at a ten o’clock on the dot the next day, elaborating to include that he will be strangled and left for dead and that no one would ever be able to find his killer doesn’t sound funny, but one might be surprised by how a straight talking invisible cowboy of a man, could be so cynical and darkly humorous.
The film is filled with these no nonsense anecdotes and as The Invisible Man begins to feel more and more empowered by his discovery, he begins to act more irrationally.
The authorities in this film, as well as the mob of drunks looking to destroy The Invisible Man and his horrible ways have a hard time finding him, which also lends to a certain humor. Firstly, the police in the film are slow moving St. Bernard types who are easily bamboozled by The Invisible Man and that there always seems to be a gaggle of drunkards following them all just adds to a very Three Stooges like setting.
Taking advantage of a snowy day and the fact that The Invisible Man must be naked in order to evade his captors, the entire town which awkwardly hosted him in the beginning of the film eventually outnumbers The Invisible Man and brings him down, signaled only by a seizure of foot prints in the snow and a sudden human sized dent in the snow adjacent to the stalled prints.
What is interesting about the end of the film is that the viewer learns that the serum’s effectiveness dies as The Invisible Man becomes nearer and nearer to his own death. It is at that point that one might find themselves with the sudden realization that a whole hour and ten minutes has passed and in no way had they wondered what The Invisible Man actually looked like.
Like a gift from Universal Monster Movie heaven, the audience is granted permission to see the scientist as a visible and physical being, something a viewer might not have even considered given that the film is so darned entertaining in its own cynical and darkly humorous way.
This film, though released nearly a decade before The Wolf Man, is in many ways superior in building suspense and maintaining a certain tone of indecency that is truly horrific.
Top Five Reasons to see The Invisible Man:
1) A pair of pants goes trotting down a country road singing “Here We Go Gathering Nuts in May”.
2) You might just go the whole film without wondering what our man looks like.
3) The love affair in the film just doesn’t matter.
4) The bar maid is way more out of her mind than The Invisible Man is.
5) It’s just a way cool concept that trumps things like werewolves.