Dr. Griffin has made a scientific breakthrough when he turns himself invisible. However, with great power comes great financial and personal gain when Griffin decides to sell his invisibility potion to the highest-bidding nation so that an invisible army can rule the world.
This film was very much ahead of its time due to not only its special effects. “The Invisible Man” is quite astonishing just by how the camera moves, even though it’s mostly moving on a dolly track.
This is a rather odd film to view through a modern lens because with a film today, you usually have a main character you follow. Regardless of whether they’re the protagonist or not, you can identify with that main character and understand their decisions.
However, in “The Invisible Man”, the main character is Dr. Griffin and he is so inconsiderate to everyone around him to the point where he finds it hilarious.
The theme of the film is how power can corrupt the average man, which is a fine theme, but perhaps don’t make him the main character because he’s psychotic. It really isn’t too much of an issue because the tone is goofier and less serious like the 2020 remake.
Essentially, Griffin is doing it all for a girl. They are both very much in love and he is a poor man. He believes that making such a great scientific breakthrough will lead to fame and fortune, but he gets greedy and goes mad with power.
He plans to sell the potion to the highest-bidding world nation and profit off of it. His verbatim dialogue is, “Reign of terror, murder of men, derail a few trains and strangle some people.”
It’s understandable if Griffin wants to make money by selling the potion, but there are a myriad of occasions in this film where he goes out of his way to harm people because he finds it hilarious, which adds to the goofier tone of the film.
Claude Rains has a very difficult job in this film, which is acting underneath a mask. This was his first role in a feature film, so his voice and how he emotes was the most crucial aspect of the film.
The effect of having Rains appear invisible on-screen was achieved by filming him in a separate environment in front of a black backdrop, similar to how green and blue screens are used today. He then wore a tight black velvet suit under his clothes, so when he removes his clothes in the film, he blends into the background, creating the effect of invisibility. When not on-screen, the crew just filmed nothing and pretended the character was there. And that all comes down to executing the wonderful wirework in the film to achieve the effect of an invisible man interacting with a real environment.
This is definitely a more plot-driven film as only Dr. Griffin is focused on. There is his love interest character, Flora, but she has so little screen time that she’s almost not a character. The new 2020 film looks to focus on the female character and not the Invisible Man.
This H.G. Wells adaptation definitely struck a nerve with people in the 30s, but may feel very quaint to today’s audiences because it’s “old” and “boring.”
This is not a “horror” film, though it’s categorized under the universal horror monster genre. It is a straight science fiction and fantasy film with elements of horror in the form of how power can corrupt man.