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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 8/16/99

The Invisible Man
Classic Monster Collection - 1933 (2000) - Universal Studios

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

The Invisible Man Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/A/A

Specs and Features

72 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered (movie on one layer, extras on the other), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary track with film historian Rudy Behlmer, documentary Now You See Him: The Invisible Man Revealed (written, directed and produced by David J. Skal), poster and stills gallery, cast and crew bios, web-links, animated film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (18 chapters), language: English (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: English, French and Spanish

"The whole world's my hiding place. I can stand out there amongst them in the day or night and laugh at them."

Sometimes the scariest thing in the world is a naked man. Many people have asked me, what's so scary about an invisible man? Well, nothing, really. Except for the philosophy behind it. In our moralistically skewered society, if there were no ramifications for wrong doing, what's stopping people from doing wrong? The simple answer is... getting caught. But what if you were invisible? Well, you could do just about anything you wanted. It's so much easier to do things when no one can look at you and pass judgement. It's even easier when you can't even look at your self. Wooooo! Scary.

The Invisible Man follows one Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains), a scientist who has discovered a way to make himself invisible. He cuts himself off from his friends and family to work on a solution to bring himself back. As he works, he finds that it's not as easy in reverse as it was to go invisible. As he helplessly rushes to find a "cure," he slowly goes mad due to exposure to a drug he used to make the formula. And after his mental transformation is complete, he finds that he doesn't want to go back. All he really wants to do is start a whole mess of crimes. First up are murders of great men and murders of little men - just to show he doesn't discriminate. After that, he plans to derail a train and cause a huge crash. With his megalomaniac inclinations, he plans to bring the world to its knees. Who could possibly stop him? Let it be said that there's no justice like mob justice.

So. That's pretty much the gist of the plot. It's pretty faithful to the original H.G. Wells' story, with a few new bumps along the way. We're introduced to Doctor Cranley (Henry Travers), Jack's one time boss, and his beautiful daughter Flora (Gloria Stuart, you know... the old Rose from Titanic). Flora and her father (who are both original additions to this screen story) are worried about Jack when he goes missing. When word gets back to Cranley about the experiments Jack was doing before he left, and he hears some of the weird crime reports, he grows even more worried. Not for Jack, mind you, but for society. Also along for the ride here is one of the biggest weasels to ever dance on the silver screen. Man, this guy is such a jerk. His name is Kemp and he's a coworker of Jack's. The minute Jack turns up missing, he moves in on Flora only to get one of the best shootdowns of all time. Then, when Jack makes himself known to Kemp, he stabs the guy in the back in such a cowardly way that you'll just hate him, right or wrong. Whatever he has coming in the end is well, well deserved.

The Invisible Man is another classic film entry from director James Whale. He gave us The Old Dark House, Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein among others. For fans of his work, you won't be disappointed here. The "horror" is very well balanced by the humor in the story. After Jack snaps for the last time, he pulls an impromptu strip tease for his horrified audience that is both eerie and hilarious. The whole thing comes of incredibly well, and even if the film is badly dated by its special effects, keep in mind the age of this film and realize that the effects in this film were quite groundbreaking at the time. This is a flick that every monster fan should see if they haven't already done so.

As you know by now, this is another Universal Monster Classic and has been treated as such on DVD. The disc is crammed full of extras and has been given a nice digital transfer. The video is presented in its original full frame format, but the print sadly shows it's age. You'll notice tears, holes, reel changes, dirt and just about everything that goes into badly preserved film stock. It's a crying shame... blah, blah, blah. I'm sure some of you are sick of me going on and on about preservation, but this is the first step towards good DVD. You can talk about matting and proper aspect ratios all you want, but it doesn't matter a damn if you can't watch these films. The way The Invisible Man looks, it's about 5 years away from being invisible all by itself. I really wish Universal would do more to restore its catalog titles, especially its trademark horror films. God only knows what some of the other unreleased horror films look like. I don't even want to imagine. Anyway, digitally, the video looks great. The black and white image is clear as a bell and free of any defects. I can't complain about the compression at all. Sound-wise, it's a simple 2-channel mono track and it's pretty good (again, for it's age). Rains' distinct voice is loud and clear and every one of Una O'Connor's screams will stay with you for days.

Because this is a Universal Monster Classic, it's also a special edition. That means it's produced by the one and only David J. Skal (canned applause). Once again, we get a really informative look into this film's jagged history through a Skal documentary. My one and only complaint about the documentary are the horrible talking head bits that feature Skal. He's obviously rehearsed and it comes off very unnatural. A friend of mine came over to the house while I was reviewing the disc and asked what "that guy's" problem, pointing to Skal on screen. It would have worked better if someone interviewed Skal or he just left himself out as a talking head altogether. Everything else about the documentary is fine - Skal is very talented in gathering good material on these films. It covers the making of The Invisible Man, its origins and the ground breaking special effects work. It even goes into the eventual sequels and offshoots (the ones Universal owned at least). Included as well is a nice commentary by the documentary's host Rudy Behlmer. As always, he's a joy. He does a great job hosting the doc, and an even better job with the commentary. He comes off as a huge fan of all kinds of films and feeds us the necessary info in large spoonfuls, while never giving too much. You'll also find production notes, photo gallery and cast and crew information. This disc is well worth checking out and makes for a worthy addition to the other Universal Classic Monster DVDs.

The Invisible Man is an old horror film. And even if it's not the scariest film you ever saw, it's probably one of the wittiest. If you're unfamiliar with it, do check it out. There's some great stuff here and DVD is always the best way to watch classics like this at home. But hurry - time isn't friendly to old films and this may be your last chance to see The Invisible Man before he completely disappears.

Todd Doogan

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