We’re already into the talkies in the 101 Sci-Fi Movies list!
What a film to start with! From the Universal vaults, who brought us the most reognized visions of Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf-man, the also gave us this version of H.G. Well’s story of The Invisble Man.
Claude Rains, who will always be Casablanca’s Captain Renault for me, no matter what else I see him in, takes centerstage, bundled for the majority if the film, under bandages, and dark glasses (apparently he didn’t film all the scenes though, and you can tell the two different actors, as one of them has a larger nose protruding from his wrappings).
He is maniacal and gleeful, as he struggles to restore himself to visibility. He’s also being driven slowly mad, whether he realizes it or not, by the concept of power he now has over the world, he believes nothing can stop him, he can go anywhere and do anything! He also believes that once he perfects the Visibility formula, he can sell both to the highest bidder, as he imagines unstoppable, invisible armies marching over their enemies territories.
The special effects, now remember this was 1933, are brilliant. They use rotoscoping against a black matte to remove Claude Rains, wearing a black bodysuit under the bandages, sunglasses, gloves and clothes, as he unwraps himself, making it appear as if he is in fact invisible, and the interaction he has with the physical environment when he’s unseen is also really well done.
He delights in picking on a poor old land lady, who has one of the most piercing shrieks I have ever heard, and wished dearly that she would just shut up, as well as anyone else he deems gets in his way.
All of it seems harmless enough, until he begins throttling a police man, and at that point I realized this guy was probably out of his tree, and that, as these things do, it wouldn’t end well for all involved. Of course it doesn’t and gives us a downer ending, and one of Rains’ only appearance sans wrappings in the entire film.
I loved the way the police trapped him, forming a line, holding hands, and moving towards their target, until their outwitted, and a woman is later frightened by a pair of trousers cavorting their way down the street. The second time however, he isn’t so lucky, as the snow gives him away.
It’s a wonderfully paced and acted film, and you can just imagine the kids, and even some of the adults viewing this when it first made the rounds in the 30s, shocking some, awing others, and hopefully delighting them all!
I have so enjoyed visiting these old films, that need to be viewed, and need to be treasured, there’s a reason we remember these ones, and not ones that came out 6 months ago, and that is… they stand the test of time, it’s a confluence of culture, art, film, story, actor and the right moment at the right time.
I can’t plead with any of you enough to keep checking out these older films, keep them alive! If you’ve seen them, share them with friends .
I can’t wait to see what else this list has for me!