Sunday, October 21, 2012
The Invisible Man (1933)
A mysterious tenant (Claude Rains) has rented a room at the Lions Head Inn in the English country side. His face remains hidden by bandages and a pair of black sunglasses, and he is always working on some sort of chemistry experiments. His odd and disruptive behavior angers the locals, and when the police arrive to arrest him, he pulls off the bandages to reveal nothing there. We eventually learn his name is Jack Griffin, a brilliant scientist who experimented with chemicals to make himself invisible, but the side effects include insanity and megalomania, and Griffin can't reverse the effects. Soon, he goes on a murderous rampage, believing himself to be beyond morality.
That dark humor works very well. Other more broadly comic scenes involving the bumbling police and the innkeeper's wife not so much, mainly due to such campy and shrill performances that are irritating and distracting. The invisible man story is also one of the hardest to do because strict adherence to logic can push the tone into unintended silliness. For example, we're expected to believe Griffin is able to run around naked in the middle of winter. But these are mostly nitpicks in an otherwise effective chiller, fitting nicely with Whale's other masterpieces.