The Invisible Man (series)

The Invisible Man (series)

Synopsis of Movie

“Suddenly I realized the power I held. The power to rule. To make the world grovel at my feet.”

Following the success of Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy, Universal added a new character to its horror lineup. But unlike the undead creatures of these earlier films, the title character of The Invisible Man was shockingly human, but thoroughly mad and malevolent. Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, The Invisible Man introduced American audiences to the stage-trained work of legendary actor Claude Rains, who managed to become an overnight Hollywood star on the strength of his voice alone.

Rains plays scientist Dr. Jack Griffin, who right from the start of the film is covered in bandages, gloves, an overcoat, dark glasses and a false nose. The doctor prefers to conduct his work alone, laboring in a small inn in the British village of Ipping, but innkeeper's wife proves to be a bit too nosy for her own good. When the innkeeper tries to give Dr. Griffin the boot, the increasingly mad scientist attacks, and the police are called in. Pushed to the brink, Griffin unwraps his bandages, revealing that he is completely invisible. After showing off his condition to the locals, taunting them with his power, Griffin flees to the home of his former partner, Dr. Kemp, to tell his horrible tale.

Dr. Griffin had been working with a skin-blanching drug called monocaine, part of a formula which turns its users completely and permanently invisible. Shacked up in the inn, Jack had been working on a cure, little realizing the drug’s other effect: megalomania. Taking Kemp on as an unwilling co-conspirator, Griffin tells the young scientist how he plans to show his power. What began as a series of pranks on the hapless citizens of Ipping now turns to murder, starting with the chief constable who doesn’t believe in him. Despite the pleadings of his former fiancée Flora (daughter of his former mentor, Dr. Cranley), Griffin goes on a murderous spree, sparking a tremendous manhunt to try to achieve the impossible: catching an invisible man.

Directed by James Whale (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein), The Invisible Man mixed its horror with surprising amounts of pathos and black humor, as audiences joined in Dr. Griffin’s sick sense of fun as an invisible prankster. The movie was an unqualified hit, and Universal had successfully launched yet another horror franchise.

It took seven years, but the series finally continued in 1940’s The Invisible Man Returns. Vincent Price was given his first starring role as Geoffrey Radcliffe, an innocent man falsely accused of murder. To clear his name, Radcliffe has Dr. Frank Griffin (brother of the first film’s Invisible Man) inject him with the monocaine, despite the doctor’s warnings that it could drive him mad. Fighting his growing homicidal urges, Geoffrey hunts down real murderer Richard Cobb, trying desperately to exact his revenge without losing his soul.

Taking a more tongue-in-cheek approach (though nowhere near as silly as 1940’s The Invisible Woman), 1942’s Invisible Agent did its part for the war effort by casting its Invisible Man as an Allied spy. Frank Raymond, grandson of Dr. Griffin, guards the invisibility formula closely, especially when Nazi agents try to steal it from him. Resisting the Axis efforts, Frank takes the serum himself, landing behind enemy lines to work as an Invisible Agent.

The final film in the original Invisible Man series arrived in 1944. In The Invisible Man’s Revenge, scientist Dr. Peter Drury unwisely decides to test his new invisibility formula on an escaped fugitive named Robert Griffin (played by Invisible Agent star Jon Hall). Now free to exact his revenge, Robert chases down an English couple who cheated him and left him for dead years earlier. The Invisible Man steals both their fortune and their daughter Julie, but reporter Mark Foster is hot on the invisible trail.

Like most of Universal’s horror stars, the Invisible Man was kept fairly busy even after his retirement. The character followed in the footsteps of Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, The Wolf Man and Boris Karloff, serving as the horror half of 1951’s Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man. Even decades later, H.G. Wells’ tale of science gone mad continues to serve as the basis for films, television shows and tales of the macabre, as The Invisible Man continues his reign of unseen terror.

Movie Release History

1933 - The Invisible Man
1940 - The Invisible Man Returns
1942 - Invisible Agent
1944 - The Invisible Man's Revenge

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Dr. Jack Griffin/The Invisible One   Claude Rains
Flora Cranley  Gloria Stuart
Doctor Kemp  William Harrigan
Doctor Cranley  Henry Travers
Jenny Hall  Una O'Connor
Bill Hall  Forrester Harvey
Chief of Police   Holmes Herbert
Jaffers   E.E. Clive
Chief Detective  Dudley Digges
Inspector Bird  Harry Stubbs
Inspector Lane  Donald Stuart
Millie  Merle Tottenham
Official  Robert Adair
Villager  Ted Billings
Bicycle Owner  Walter Brennan
Farmer  Robert Brower
Man Suggesting Ink  John Carradine
Woman  Violet Kemble Cooper
Villager  D'Arcy Corrigan
Reporter  Dwight Frye
Doctor  Crauford Kent
Newsboy  John Merivale
Policeman  Monte Montague
Official  Bob Reeves
Official  Jack Richardson
Hospital Physician  Jameson Thomas

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