This week I was back at the stunning Regent’s Street Cinema for their penultimate screening from the Universal Monsters Season; H.G. Well’s fantastic adaptiation of The Invisible Man. Before Johnny Depp takes a spin as the mad scientist in the impending reboot, James Whale’s (Frankenstein (1931) & Bride of Frankenstein (1935)) directs the brilliant Claude Rains in one of the best from the early Universal Monster movies.
When the film begins and we watch as a mysterious strangers enters a village pub bringing the outside chill in with him. His high collared pea coat with tartan scarf wrapped around his mouth, the snow covered fedora, the bulging safety goggles and of course the veiling bangages establish a stark and errie intrigue in, not only the patrons of the pub but of the audience too.
Whale’s doesn’t shy away from letting the you absorb the ominous figures features, cutting from a tight mid-shot to a close up upon entery. For an invisible man, Dr. Jack Griffin’s costume design is arguably on par with some of the iconic work produced by the accalimed make up artist Jack Pierce.
The Invisible Man’s production and release was during the brief Pre-Code era of Hollywood. The term refers to a time between the introduction of sound in cinema and the introduction of the Motion Picture Production Code cencorship guidelines and as a result many of the films produced during this peroid were consdiered very risqué and included lots of profanity, promiscuity and violence. With this in mind, it’s intertesting to see how Whale’s balances the camp and kooky aspects of the film with the more sinsiter elements of the story. During Dr. Griffin’s rampage throughout the village, de-railing a train and throwing people off hill tops, his wry and dark sense of humour cuts through the horror and offers sly comic relief.
Not only did Whale’s continue to push the scandalous with this film but the fantastical was equally pushed with the brilliant special effects work by John P. Fulton. Overseeing special effects at Universal Studies for several years, producing work for Frankestein, The Mummy and Dracula, Fulton utalised the matte photography technquie to produce some of the wry camera trickery seen in the film.
By combining multiple layers of film into a single frame Fulton to mask out sections of Rains not covered by the bandages. Coupled with these special effects and the uncanny atmosphere conjured up by Whale’s makes The Invisible Man one of Universals best films of the series.
For more information regarding the Regent Street Cinema and the Universal Monsters Season, check out their website – https://www.regentstreetcinema.com/