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Thursday, December 18, 2014

THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933)

The zippiest charter member in Universal Studios’ Horror Classics gets off to a quick start. No preamble, no set up, no Act One. Instead, we plunge in to find Claude Rains already invisible and on the run; back story & personal relationships to be filled in anon. It gives extra momentum to James Whales’ helming even when the editing goes static. (An early Talkie leftover at some studios.) Except for Rains’ tour de force vocals as Mr. Invisible (what a creepy laugh he cooked up!), not much can be done with the more serious roles, but the townspeople are all stellar eccentrics. And the analogue special effects remain witty marvels with just a few traveling matte shots showing their age in a bad way. The fun's not only in John Fulton’s awesome bag of trick shots, but also from simple fake-out mechanical effects, and the rich look from lenser Arthur Edeson. Universal hadn’t caught on (or is it caught up?) to full background scores (Franz Waxman would add that in to spectacular result on Whale’s THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN/’35), but in all other ways, most satisfying.

DOUBLE-BILL: Universal did themselves no favors with their INVISIBLE sequels. But John Carpenter’s maligned flop, MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN/’92, knows what it’s up to.

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