The Invisible Man is one of Universal’s original classic monsters, first introduced to cinema back in 1933, and possessing unique powers. While H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel The Invisible Man has been adapted many times in multiple forms of media, the most famous version remains the film released to theaters by Universal back in the glory days of the company’s original gang of monsters. Played by Claude Rains, The Invisible Man is a villain one would think might be less frightening than a vampire or a werewolf, but as realized onscreen, he’s just as dangerous to those around him.
It’s not too surprising that Universal’s The Invisible Man turned out as well as it did, what with celebrated director James Whale behind the camera. By 1933, Whale had already previously helmed 1931’s Frankenstein and 1932’s The Old Dark House, and would go on to direct arguably the greatest Universal monster film of all, 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein. The Invisible Man was also blessed to land the talents of star Rains, appearing in his first American film. Rains would of course go on earn four Oscar nominations, and appear in iconic films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Casablanca.
The Invisible Man returns to theaters next year, via Universal and Blumhouse Productions. Technically considered a reboot of the 1933 film, it’s still a bit unclear just how similar the plot will end up being, as what’s known so far sounds quite different. In the meantime though, let’s examine the origin and powers of the original Invisible Man, as played by Rains.
In The Invisible Man movie – as with most adaptations, the film deviates from the book in places – the titular villain used to be a scientist named Dr. Jack Griffin. Griffin works for a fellow scientist named Dr. Cranley, and is engaged to his daughter Flora. However, Griffin is concerned about being able to provide the life his love deserves, so when his experiments with the chemical monocane produce unexpected results, he throws himself into the work. Unfortunately, while Griffin is able to turn himself invisible, which would no doubt be a scientific breakthrough, he quickly realizes that he doesn’t know how to become visible again.
While Griffin’s initial goal after becoming The Invisible Man is figuring out how to undo his own invisibility, the chemical concoction that formed his invisibility formula begins driving the brilliant scientist insane, eventually criminally so. Despite his status as the film’s villain, it’s interesting to note that he’s never devoid of sympathetic qualities. While misguided, Griffin’s push for a scientific breakthrough sprang from good intentions, and it’s only due to the chemicals now coursing through his body that he begins to behave in an evil manner. To hammer that idea home, once Griffin is on his death bed after being shot by police, he expresses regret for the pain he’s caused.
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