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The Invisible Man
The Invisible Man poster.jpg
Date of Release: November 13, 1933
Boogeymen: Dr. Jack Griffin
Followed by: The Invisible Man Returns

The Invisible Man is a 1933 American science fiction horror film directed by James Whale. Based on H. G. Wells' 1897 The Invisible Man and produced by Universal Pictures, the film stars Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, and William Harrigan. The film involves a Dr. Jack Griffin (Rains) who is covered in bandages and has his eyes obscured by dark glasses, the result of a secret experiment that makes him invisible, taking lodging in the village of Iping. Never leaving his quarters, the stranger demands that the staff leave him completely alone until his landlady discovers he is invisible. Griffin returns to the laboratory of his mentor, Dr. Cranley (Henry Travers), where he reveals his secret to Dr. Kemp (William Harrigan) and former fiancée Flora Cranley (Gloria Stuart) who soon learn that Griffin's discovery drives him insane, leading him to prove his superiority over other people by performing harmless pranks at first and eventually turning to murder.

The Invisible Man was in development for Universal as early as 1931 when Richard L. Schayer and Robert Florey suggested that Wells' novel would make a good follow-up to the studio's horror film hit Dracula. Universal opted to make Frankenstein in 1931 instead. This led to several screenplay adaptions being written and a number of potential directors including Florey, E.A. Dupont, Cyril Gardner, and screenwriters John L. Balderston, Preston Sturges, and Garrett Fort all signing on to develop the project intending it to be a film for Boris Karloff. Following Whale's work on The Old Dark House and The Kiss Before the Mirror, Whale signed on and his screenwriting colleague R.C. Sherriff developed a script in London. Production began in June 1933 and ended in August 1933 with two months of special effects work done following the end of filming.

On the film's release in 1933, it was a great financial success for Universal and received strong reviews from several trade publications, including The New York Times, which placed it among their Best in Film for the year 1933. The film spawned several sequels that were relatively unrelated to the original film in the 1940s and a remake in 2020. The film continued to receive praise on re-evaluations by critics such as Carlos Clarens, Jack Sullivan, and Kim Newman, as well as being listed as one of their favorite genre films by filmmakers John Carpenter, Joe Dante, and Ray Harryhausen. In 2008, The Invisible Man was selected for the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Plot

On a snowy night, a stranger, his face swathed in bandages and his eyes obscured by dark goggles, takes a room at The Lion's Head Inn in the English village of Iping in Sussex. The man demands to be left alone. Later, the innkeeper, Mr. Hall, is sent by his wife to evict the stranger after he has made a huge mess in his room while doing research and has fallen behind on his rent. Angered, the stranger throws Mr. Hall down the stairs. Confronted by a policeman and some local civilians, he removes his bandages and goggles, revealing he is invisible. Laughing maniacally, he takes off his clothes, making himself completely undetectable, and drives off his tormentors before fleeing into the countryside.

The stranger is Dr. Jack Griffin, a chemist who discovered the secret of invisibility while conducting a series of tests involving an obscure drug called monocane. Flora Cranley, Griffin's fiancée and the daughter of Griffin's employer, Dr. Cranley, becomes distraught over Griffin's long absence. Cranley and his other assistant, Dr. Kemp, search Griffin's empty laboratory, finding only a single note in a cupboard. Cranley becomes concerned when he reads it. The note has a list of chemicals, including monocane, which Cranley knows is extremely dangerous; an injection of it drove a dog mad in Germany. Griffin, it seems, is unaware of this. Cranley deduces Griffin may have learned about monocane in English books printed before the incident that describe only its bleaching power.

On the evening of his escape from the inn, Griffin turns up at Kemp's home. He forces Kemp to become his visible partner in a plot to dominate the world through a reign of terror, beginning with "a few murders here and there". They drive back to the inn to retrieve his notebooks on the invisibility process. Sneaking inside, Griffin finds a police inquiry underway, conducted by an official who believes it is all a hoax. After securing his books, Griffin angrily attacks and kills the officer.

Back home, Kemp calls Cranley, asking for help, and then the police. Flora persuades her father to let her come along. In her presence, Griffin becomes more placid and calls her "darling". When he realizes Kemp has betrayed him, his first reaction is to get Flora away from danger. After promising Kemp that at 10 o'clock the next night he will murder him, Griffin escapes and goes on a killing spree. He causes the derailment of a train, resulting in a hundred deaths, and throws two volunteer searchers off a cliff. The police offer a reward for anyone who can think of a way to catch him.

Feeling that Griffin will try to fulfill his promise, the chief detective in charge of the search uses Kemp as bait and devises various clever traps. At Kemp's insistence, the police disguise him in a police uniform and let him drive his car away from his house. Griffin, however, is hiding in the back seat of the car. He overpowers Kemp and ties him up in the front seat. Griffin then sends the car down a steep hill and over a cliff where it explodes on impact, killing Kemp.

A snowstorm forces Griffin to seek shelter in a barn where he falls asleep. Later a farmer enters and spots movement in the hay where Griffin is sleeping. He notifies the police, who rush out to the farm and surround the barn. They set fire to the building, which forces Griffin to come out, leaving visible footprints in the snow. The chief detective opens fire, mortally wounding Griffin. He is taken to the hospital where, hours later, a surgeon informs Dr. Cranley that Griffin is dying and asking to see Flora. On his deathbed, Griffin admits to Flora, "I meddled in things that man must leave alone." As he dies, his body quickly becomes visible again.

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