Jump Cuts: “The Invisible Man”

“Jump Cuts” reveals the thoughts that swirl through my head as I watch famous (or infamous) movies. This time it’s The Invisible Man, the original 1931 production directed by James Whale and starring Claude Rains in his first major Hollywood movie.

As a scientist who has discovered how to become invisible but not a way to revert back to a normal state, the heavily bandaged Dr. Jack Griffin (Rains) hides out in a small village to work on a cure but freaks out the locals with his condition. He then flees back to his home base to toil further on a cure as well as plan dastardly deeds and world domination through using and selling his special ability. But his lady love (played by future Oscar nominee Gloria Stuart) tries to dissuade him from his delusions of grandeur and power as the police hunt him down.

Here are my random musings on The Invisible Man, which is now available on Blu-ray in the handsomely packaged Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection set.

1. It’s ironic that Claude Rains’ Hollywood debut features him all bandaged up or invisible. You only see his face at the end. But his great voice work helped him carry the picture and established a place for him in American films.

2. Classic old school Hollywood horror trappings: grand sets, moody lighting, stylish cinematography.

3. Annoying old Hollywood clichés: Unnecessarily hysterical female acting.

4. While director James Whale has been praised for his camp sense of humor — and here was probably trying to bring the humor from H.G. Wells original novel to the screen — it sometimes worked against the mood of the film. It should be creepier.

5. That being said, some of the effects, while dated, are impressive for their time, and some do hold up fairly well. They certainly enhance the atmosphere. And the presence of Rains makes the picture.

6. Watching the special features, I was surprised to learn that Gloria Stuart later played the woman who told the story of James Cameron’s Titanic. She was nominated for Academy, Golden Globe and SAG Awards for that famous role.

7. Did you know that a young Vincent Price starred in the sequel to The Invisible Man?

8. The local police inspector is a crafty guy. Too bad he never knows when the Invisible Man is there, listening to him.

9. Jack Griffin/The Invisible Man is a mean son of a bitch. I wish I knew what made him so cold-blooded other than just poverty.

10. The scene where a screaming women runs away from the Invisible Man as he skips down a road only in pants is great.

11. I think if the average guy could turn invisible, he’d spend a lot of time spying on women undressing. Just saying.

12. I feel bad for the cat that got sprayed with ink when someone thought she was the Invisible Man. Whoever bathes her is not gonna have fun. That’s a short horror film right there.

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