[LIGHT 2016] The INVISIBLE MAN (1933)

After the imperfect but nevertheless highly sympathetic to The Mummy, we focus today and for the first time on a film made by an author that we have already encountered in this retrospective, James Whale. The director of that grandiose Frankenstein, that we find also in the forthcoming criticism devoted to its sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, offers us an adaptation of a novel by H. G Wells, The Invisible Man. Very well received at the time, either by the critics or the box office, the movie is considered as a one-piece hinge of the series UNIVERSAL MONSTERS (our retrospective: HERE) and a landmark in the cinematic landscape american of the 40s. After having been very impressed by the first work of the author, who shot the best of the benefits offered by Universal while imposing his paw, author of genius, as I was leaving therefore very confident for The Invisible Man, but I didn’t expect for so much to James Whale repeats the feat he had performed two years previously. An error on my part, as the director’s mastery of his subject and imposes itself as a must-see once more.

I may be criticised for often dwell on this aspect during this retrospective, but the making of the movies Universal Monsters still manages to impress me, and James Whale wins without doubt the best example to talk about this perfect visual for the nugget that is Frankenstein. The producer Carl Laemmle Jr , leaving him a freedom that would envy most filmmakers of the time, the artist takes the opportunity and book with the Invisible Man a new work, very visual and bold. The staging, clearly more sober than in Frankenstein, is no less strong smart and James Whale fits perfectly in the universe that it puts in place. And it does so by its officers and cutting to create tension from nothing, whether in its long panoramic shots in the vacuum or in the design of the body perfectly designed to give birth to an invisible presence. Here, there is no artistic direction in the gothic or large spaces with creepy, James Whale creates a scene that could almost be called anti-spectacular, but it is so well thought out and enhanced by a photograph admirable as this bias appears finally as the best possible choice. The refusal of grandiosity also appears in the writing, once more the opposite of Frankenstein where the creature appeared only at the end of the first half of the movie. Here, the invisible man is present from the sublime to the foreground, and we will soon see him in action. I took the opportunity to make a brief aside on some technical imperfections of the film, in minor to report ; the special effects, filmed frontally despite their inaccuracies, of course, related to the time, have aged, and even the directed by James Whale fails to make people forget about these small defects, despite a few plans are flawless. It is the same for the mixing of voices, which, during certain scenes of invisibility, simply rings false. However, in most of the scenes the sound is designed so that the audience is lost and does not know where is the invisible man, and in this sense, it is difficult to blame the film for these few technical flaws related to its ambition and the enormous challenge it represents.

The director manages to deliver several scenes of worship, of the same ilk as the sequence of the little girl of Frankenstein. More pleasant still, we found in the story or in the creation of numerous links with his previous work and that help to make James Whale a writer with obsessions, perfectly adapting to the series UNIVERSAL MONSTERS, bringing the same depth and side almost sadistic quite welcome. But yet The Invisible Man worried me during its first few minutes. If visually the film is successful from beginning to end, the beginning can let fear a story focusing on the feelings of the characters or any story of love, avoiding to deal with the moral and philosophical which is the interest of the book ofH. G Wells. It had surprisingly worked well for The Mummy ‘s Karl Freund, but James Whale, he does not try at all to enter his film in the charm of a bygone era, and seeks, rather, modernity, and difficult to make more modern, in the context of history as we know it in 1933, that the story of a man gone mad and power-hungry to the point of exterminating the populations. Thus, the director has the good taste to quickly abandon the apparent simplicity of setting up at the beginning of the work and assumes quickly the enormous potential philosophical of his film. The moral questions multiply, and the dilemmas are being put in place, and James Whale did not hesitate to put in scene the death of hundreds of individuals to highlight the folly of a man, embodied (or disembodied, can we say) by Claude Rains, a true revelation of the voice icy shine nine years later in the grand Casablanca. It is also what makes James Whale the best artist who has, for the moment, worked alongside Carl Laemmle Jr. His films go far beyond the status of entertainment to address thematic, deep surcroits scenes with ease, crazy. The director impresses once again, and the Invisible Man became one of the best films of a series decidedly admirable.

”the director tackles the themes of power and greed without concession and multiplies the sequences challenging morally”

After the death, and religion, see James Whale tackle the themes of power and greed with the same interest is quite fascinating, especially that the director makes no concession and multiplies the sequences challenging morally. In this kind of big productions, it is decidedly rare to see an artist say as much, and Carl Laemmle Jr was decidedly the flair, giving James Whale as much freedom. The developer can thus expose the immensity of his talent, and he is once again a nice way. What the further increase of the waiting around for his next film, The Bride of Frankenstein, considered even superior to the film it is the sequel, as one of the greatest american films of the time, and that will be criticized in a few days on the Blog of The Film !


Your opinion ?

The Light Festival, will take place from 8 to 16 October 2016, dan stous the cinemas of the grand Lyon.

– programming

– our coverage

– our retrospective UNIVERSAL MONSTERS


Original title : The Invisible Man

Achievement : James Whale

Screenplay : R. C. Sherriff and Preston Sturges

Main actors : Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan

Country of origin : United States

Output : 1933

Duration : 1: 11

Distributor : Universal Pictures

Synopsis : Jack Griffin, a scientist obsessed by his work, has managed the feat to become invisible thanks to a formula he has invented. The problem is that it does not happen to reverse the effects. To the obsessive search of an antidote that will restore his normal appearance, Griffin takes refuge in the inn of a small isolated village to work there. But the behavior of this invisible man changes, becomes crazy, aggressive, and deeply in love with a terrifying urge to power…



1923 – Our lady of Paris (★★★★☆)

“an excellent way for Universal to establish itself as a studio major”

1925 – The phantom of the opera (★★★★☆)

“a nugget of visual and omen yet beautiful things for the rest of the series”

1928 – The man who laughs (★★★☆☆)

“not a bad movie, but it could have been much more”
1931 – Dracula (★★★★★)

“Tod Browning performs a major work, whether on the movie or pure on the representation of Dracula on the big screen”
1931 – Frankenstein (★★★★★)

“an instant classic made to perfection”
1932 – The mummy (★★★★☆)

“a first film is flawed, awkward, but who let themselves be viewed with pleasure and even paying the luxury of moving his audience”

1933 – The invisible man (★★★★☆)

“the director tackles the themes of power and greed without concession and multiplies the sequences challenging morally”

1935 – The bride of Frankenstein (★★★★★)

“The work of James Whale stands out as the jewel ultimate of a series absolutely fascinating”

1941 – The Wolf man (★★★☆☆)

“THE LOUP-GAROU is still a film to see, registering visually and thematically, the continuity of the Universal Monsters, and who will enthrall you with the time an hour”

1954 – The creature from the black lagoon (★★★★★)

Jack Arnolds carries a film of great intelligence and an audacity all making honors the early masterpieces of the series, while creating his own myth”

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