Unseen Maniac Proves No Hoax

Good sub-hed from James Whale and RC Sherrif’s THE INVISIBLE MAN.

Pretty damn suave housecoats on display also.

Watched this tonight with our friend Ali, who remarked on the wild tonal shifts, It’s not just that the film contains both slapstick knockabout and stark sadistic horror, but, as Ali remarked, it doesn’t waste time building up to the horror or lingering on its consequences — it’s just straight on with the comedy, and the bodies still warm.

Gloria Stuart is pretty terrible but it doesn’t matter. William Harrigan, hovering over her shoulder, is on first sight a pretty repulsive specimen of the genus actor, but proves to be perfectly cast. Entirely charmless as a screen presence, he is thrust into horrible situations where he ought to invite our warmest sympathy, but fails to. So that the invisible and very hostile man remains Our Hero, despite his complete lack of admirable attributes.

Note how Mr. Invis, setting Harrigan off bound hand and foot in a brakeless auto, describes lovingly how the fall will shatter his arms, then his neck. Which is then fullsomely depicted in a spectacular model shot, with the added detail that he bursts into flames also, just for jolly.

THE INVISIBLE MAN stars Captain Louis Renault; Old Rose; ‘Mac’ McKay; Clarence; Matilda Thrawn; Honesty Nuttall; Sir Karell Borotyn; Nurgomaster; Casper Guttman 1st; Giacomo the jester; Mrs. Hudson; and Renfield.

6 Responses to “Unseen Maniac Proves No Hoax”

  1. ehrenstein47 Says:

    I thought Gloria was lovely. She told me that even though he was invisible, Claude kept upstaging her and Whale had to pull him back. Fascinatingly this is Claude’s motion picture debut and we don’t get to see his face until the very end. His magnificent voice dominates all that goes before.

  2. Tony Williams Says:

    The film does have its merits. But there is a very good mini-series version that preserves much of the menace in Wells’ original novel including the albino-outsider figure of the title character and the late (19th Victorian social context.

  3. The series is a bit plodding, though, isn’t it? Faithful to everything except the book’s headlong pace, which Whale certainly captures.

    Gloria gets a bit more to do, bickering with Raymond Massey, cowering from Karloff, and is better, in The Old Dark House. Whale obviously liked her a lot.

  4. Fiona Watson Says:

    Do you mean this Tony?

    The whole invisibility experiment is told in flashback in this episode. Interesting fact – The blind man he encounters is Esmond Knight, a Michael Powell regular who was genuinely partially sighted, but (I think) always played sighted characters in Powell’s movies.

  5. Tony Williams Says:

    Yes, Fiona. Certainly, David C. I agree with your comments about pacing in the mini-series. And, David E., who could not love Glooria in everything she did. First saw Esmond Knight as the hangman in the BBC TV mini-series of BARNABY RUDGE with John Wood as the title character with good supporting cast such as Newton Blick and Timothy Bateson.

  6. ehrenstein47 Says:

    Gloria loved what she called Whale’s “wicked” sense of humor. And how could she not as her husband wrote for the Marx Brothers and Groucho was one of her best friends.

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