Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Invisible Man (4 Stars)

When watching this film, made 82 years ago in 1933, my question is "How did they do it?" There were no computers, there was no greenscreen. Of course, as soon as the film was over I read up on it. According to Wikipedia, "When Claude Rains had some of his clothes on or was taking his clothes off, the effect was achieved by shooting him in a completely black velvet suit against a black velvet background and then combining this shot with another shot of the location the scene took place in using a matte process". Do you understand that? I don't. Maybe that's just as well. Films are more enjoyable if they're seen as something magical. It's no coincidence that Georges Méliès, recognised as the father of modern films, was a stage magician before he turned to making films to dazzle the audience in fairground tents.

Even though the film is all about invisibility, I find the Invisible Man, the scientist Jack Griffin, most terrifying when he can be seen. His bandaged face and hands make him look like a mummy. In sequels he began to wear face cream to make himself visible, but this detracted from the horror effect. Everyone who sees this terrible man, assumed to be scarred and deformed beneath the bandages, shrinks away in fear.

The film bears many similarities to "Frankenstein", made by the same director, James Whale, two years earlier. We have an obsessive scientist, his beautiful fiancée, the police and the villagers. Both scientists are mad. Henry Frankenstein thought that making new life put him on a par with God, whereas Jack Griffin's sights were lower: he merely wanted to rule the world.

Today was the first time I've watched the film for a long, long time, more than 40 years. It's a film that will be watched forever, a constant inspiration for young film makers.

1 comment:

  1. I think I understand it.
    When he's invisible he wears a completely black suit made of velvet. Like a scuba diving suit - completely covers him. Then he'd wear his costume on top. They'd film it on a black velvet background - which would be like a green screen today. Then they'd film another locational shot. Then they'd put the two scenes together. So he effectively wears a green screen (black velvet suit) and stands in front of a green screen (black velvet background).

    I'll have to get this film out!


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