Tag Archives: the invisible man

The Invisible Man Returns (1940)

The Invisible Man Returns: This claims to be a sequel to the novel, but it’s more like a sequel to the movie. Vincent Price plays Geoffrey Radcliffe, a man wrongly imprisoned for the murder of his brother. Through the help of his friend, Dr. Frank Griffin (brother of the original Invisible Man, whose tragic tale unfolded nine years before), he escapes and begins his search for the men who framed him.

Radcliffe takes the invisibility drug with the full knowledge that one of the side effects is madness. He worries that he’ll hurt those he loves, and of course once it he does start going mad, he doesn’t recognize it. His need for revenge upon the real killers gets the best of him.

Man, I love Vincent Price so much. And wow is he ever young – not yet 30! You don’t see his face until the final scene, as in the book, so this whole time I’d had middle-aged Vincent pictured in my mind, since that’s the era of his life I’m far more familiar with.

The re-visibility effect is an interesting mix of live action and what looks like an illustration from an anatomy text book. The other special effects are the same sort as we’ve seen before: the clothes superimposed upon the scene, with occasional glimpses of the actor shining through dimly. The wire work is much less obvious, though, which is nice.

I actually really enjoyed this one, but I think Price had a lot to do with that. He managed to play his madness convincingly, alternating between humorous and menacing, all while remaining quite sympathetic. The ending was honestly good, far less cheesy than it could have been, and didn’t drag out. This is one movie I’d watch again.

Hollow Man

Hollow Man: Believe it or not, I’d never seen this film. This is not an adaptation of the novel, nor does it claim to be, but the invisible man concept very clearly stems from Wells. We begin with Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon), cocky scientist experimenting with invisibility. A lot of the film is “hey look at these nifty special effects” but that’s all right – invisibility is a pretty cool effect.

Here invisibility is described as a bio-shift in quantum phase, or some such gobbledygook. Still, I was pretty excited that they did the “invisible eyelids” thing just like in the book. What causes re-visibility, however, is weirdly inconsistent. Why would being electrocuted make you become partially visible again?

Mostly, this is about what a sociopathic sexual predator would do if he was invisible. At one point, a guy asks him if it was the power or the side effects of the experiment that drove him mad, which is kind of hilarious because he’s so obviously horrible from the very start.

I won’t lie to you: this is not a good movie. I mean, I guess if you like generic horror films and Kevin Bacon and a fair amount of partial nudity, you might like this one. But it’s certainly not a classic for the ages.

The Invisible Man (1933)

The Invisible Man (1933): I’m kind of surprised more versions of this story have not been made. (Most of the film versions have used the invisibility concept but not the actual plot.) My husband thinks it’s because the special effects are a pain in the butt. I’m not so sure. Most of the full-body shots here were done with black velvet to superimpose the empty clothing onto the rest of the scene. Moving objects were mostly done with wires or off-screen manipulation, and one particularly inspired scene was a fake “empty bandages” head being unwrapped by someone’s hands reaching in from out of frame, to make it look like Griffin is removing his own head wrappings. Very clever.

Anyway, this film starts out pretty true to the book, with the bandaged stranger showing up at the inn and generally being a jerk to everybody. However, here Kemp is Griffin’s colleague, looking into Griffin’s disappearance. Another addition: Dr. Cranley, who also works with Kemp and Griffin, and his daughter Flora, who evidently had some sort of romantic ties to Griffin. The addition of Flora is hardly surprising, but her character was underused.

Thomas Marvel, the vagrant Griffin basically kidnaps to do his bidding, is gone, though Kemp does partially fill that role. The ending is very different, but I suppose the filmmakers didn’t think audiences in 1933 would take “death by mob” too well. Considering the amount of slapstick comedy from Griffin invisibly bothering everyone, he’s more of a trickster than a menace, a man driven mad by the very chemicals that turned him invisible.

I actually really enjoyed this film. Some of the overacting is unintentionally hilarious (like the innkeeper’s wife who never stops screaming, or Flora’s tearful dive onto the window seat), but in general it’s quite well done. My favorite character was probably Kemp, whose mannerisms were mostly of the “please pardon me while I go have a nervous breakdown” variety. With a run time of barely over an hour, this is definitely worth watching.

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells: The set-up to this story is somewhat unusual, as it begins with a stranger wrapped in bandages arriving at an inn on a snowy night. Everyone assumes he’s horribly disfigured, and the text goes on a bit as if that is indeed the case, but given the title we the reader are well aware that he is in fact invisible. That said, I did very much enjoy this story. It’s more of a horror story than I expected, with the titular character unquestionably playing the part of the villain (as opposed to a mostly well-meaning scientist cursed by his own hubris, as with Frankenstein or Dr. Jekyll). The pitfalls of invisibility (such as being able to see through one’s own eyelids, for example) added a certain spark to the narrative, and parts were surprisingly suspenseful. The Invisible Man’s motivations were sort of vague and unsatisfying, but in general I recommend this book.

Classics Retold

September is the month of Classics Retold, courtesy of Bookish Whimsy, among others. I decided to go with The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, one of my favorite authors. I’ll start with the book review tomorrow, then post reviews of assorted other things – mostly movies – based on this story.

I thought about making this a weekly thing, but instead I think I’ll just post things as I get to them, which will end up being distributed more or less evenly through the month, depending on how quickly Netflix delivers.

Note: many of these posts will contain spoilers, but I think most people know the general story of The Invisible Man – that is, there’s this dude who figures out how to make himself invisible and this ability makes him powerful, dangerous, and ultimately tragic. It’s a very short novel and is available online and via email for free, so you really ought to go read it.

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