22 October 2005 | film-critic
There's breathing in my barn!
Claude Rains. The man. The myth. The legend. You cannot talk about this film, whether in conversation or in any review, without placing this actor on the tip of your tongue. He is the epitome of the madness that surrounded the power-hungry Invisible Man. In this day of modern cinematic wonder, most full-fledged actors would want their faces to be in front of the camera, showcasing the entire film. Directors would want this fledgling star to promote their film, get kiddies interested in spending their money, and for financiers to see the profits of their contributions. Let's face it, if Brad Pitt is in a movie, typically most audience members are actually going to "see" Brad Pitt. Thankfully, we have directors like James Whale and his interpretation of H.G.Wells' classic The Invisible Man. Whale took a powerful story, expanded it, breathed life into it, and followed up with quite possibly one of the most sinister villains in movie horror history since Hannibal Lector. He is crude, he is heartless, and he wants nothing more than world domination
he is Claude Rains
and yet, until the end of the film, we never see the white's of his eyes.
There are several reasons why I just fell in love with this film, outside of the cataclysmic performance of Claude Rains. Ohhhh, Claude Rains. I loved the way that this movie was filmed. I loved the scope of the Invisible Man's terror. Whale could have kept his antagonist to committing just single murders of friends and family, he could of just kept it confined to just one single town, he could have kept our focus directly on the turmoil of Rains, but instead, he decided (amazingly!) to open the entire can of worms with success. When I first began this film I was expecting the classic images of angry villagers with pitchforks storming the house that the Invisible Man lived within, but instead, Whale gave us this sort of random chaos that truly created fear around this character. Whale is able to give us the true terror of this madman by perhaps expanding his budget and showing us how big the terror of the Invisible Man is. For example, I never foresaw the horrific train accident, nor the random worker push off the mountain, and when Rains explained to Kemp what the human impact of falling down a ravine would be like, it literally sent shivers down my spine. Whale created a madman better than some modern horror films could ever accomplish.
For a film created in the 1930s, the special effects were spectacular. Sure, CGI was just a glimmer in Lucas' mother's eyes, but James Whale did a superb job of giving us these rare glimpses into the future of special effects. The way that he created the Invisible Man surprised me. I did not expect to ever see the creature without his bandages on, but within ten minutes we are shown the full scope of Whale's creativity. I thought the use of snow, dust, and even the early stages of the overused "green screen" was original for its time. To see Rains smoke as the Invisible Man put a smile on my face. This is a perfect example of a film that used just enough special effects, in the right way, to make the audience forget for a brief time that this was in fact a film
not real life. While the special effects did have one or two flaws (see the Invisible Man riding the stolen bike were those wires?), I must credit Whale for pushing the envelope for the time. It was surprising to see such quality from such an older film.
If there would be anything that I would change about this film would be the subtext concerning the relationship between Rains and Flora (played by Titanic star Gloria Stuart). I thought this was nearly unnecessary. I understand the value of trying to give a human element to this monster, but I thought that it could have been done without these random scenes. There wasn't really any connection between the two, and we were left with very little information of them prior to the start of the film. Perhaps if there had been a stronger pre-story it would have congealed better. The same can be said for the chemistry and reasonings for the plot points surrounding Rains and Kemp. I could understand why they occurred during the film, but there had to be something more prior to the opening scene. I wanted to know more. I think that is a good sign for a film, when you are left wondering what was the story before this one
and even what was it afterwards.
Overall, I thought this was an exceptional film. I now have this newfound respect for Claude Rains, a man I knew nothing about prior to watching this film. He carried this film and honestly successfully pulled off one of the most frightening madmen this world has ever seen. I think what scared me the most about him was the fact that he actually, unlike some villains, actually followed through with his vile plans. He was evil, whether the invisibility did it or not, he was pure evil, and I loved every minute of it. The special effects were delightful, with a small subplot that this picture could have gone without. Amazing, and a perfect treat before Halloween!
Grade: ***** out of *****