The Invisible Man (1933) was one of the best Universal pre-code horror movies. Adapted from H.G. Wells’ novel, directed by James Whale (Frankenstein) and starring Claude Rains in his first on screen role (despite never being seen on film until the very end), The Invisible Man is one of my favourite films from this period.
The film starts off with a mysterious bandaged man arriving at an inn in a small English village on a dark and snowy night. He demands a private room where he can be undisturbed. Naturally the town can’t leave the stranger alone and in one of the more classic scenes in film history, it’s revealed that the stranger is invisible.
Rains plays Dr. Jack Griffin, the invisible man of the title, a scientist who has experimented on himself and now can’t change back. Also one of the chemicals that he used in turning himself invisible has a dangerous side effect. It causes madness. And Griffin is extremely mad. He starts a reign of terror across England, murdering people with his bare hands, causing destruction and holding the country hostage to his demands.
And after 78 years, the effects hold up extremely well. In fact it’s kind of sad that films today create virtually the same invisible effects with a computer, granted with a more polished look, while in 1933 they did it with a lot of trick photography and really nothing has been improved upon. A masterpiece.