Thursday, June 9, 2011

Monsters vs. Aliens Challenge: The Invisible Man

Including The Invisible Man in this challenge is kind of a stretch, because he's really just a one off joke in the movie. They reference him when the monsters are contemplating escaping from the government compound they are held in. When the other monsters point out that it has never been done before, poor lovable B.O.B. exclaims "But the Invisible Man got out!" and the Missing Link tells him, "No, he didn't. He died and we just didn't have the heart to tell you. He's still right over there." He then gestures to an empty chair. It's still a fairly smart joke - while most of the monsters in the movie come from the 1950s era, the Invisible Man is from 1933, and as such could possibly have died of natural causes by now. Of course, I may be looking a little too far into it with that one.

Since I've been going through all the Universal classics one by one anyway, I knew I was going to cover this one eventually. What I was not expecting was to enjoy this film as much as I did. I knew virtually nothing about it going in, so the special effects literally blew me away. I was not expecting to see what was essentially a green screen effect in a movie made in this time period. They technically used black velvet rather than green cloth, but the fact that they were able to do that without the aid of computers is just fantastic. The wire work done when he's completely invisible is more in line with what I was expecting, but still pretty impressive. The scene where he first unmasks himself in front of the villagers is actually pretty creepy, seeing the empty holes in his face as he removes the fake nose and glasses.

Even more than that, this movie was pretty wild for it's time period. The invisibility formula drives him mad, and he takes great pleasure in hurting and even killing people. He gleefully robs a bank and then throws the money out onto the street. He even threatens at one point that with this new power, he could rape whenever he wanted! There were times when I couldn't help making comparisons to a more modern psychopathic character like the Joker.

I already knew I liked Claude Raines from watching The Wolf Man and Casablanca previously, but he gives an absolutely fantastic performance here. There's something to be said for an actor who is willing to not be seen for almost an entire film. There was also some great action at one point where we see a car driven off a cliff and explode! This is definitely nothing like the other more moody horror films of its era.

About the only complaint I would have is that it was a little disjointed. Sometimes he was a stark raving lunatic, and other times he desperately seemed to want to find a cure. I feel like there should have been a slightly better way to explain his sudden mood swings so they could make a little more sense.

Universal made 4 sequels to this movie throughout the 1940s, though all of them are really other people taking the invisibility formula rather than the same character. There were also apparently quite a few attempts at television series throughout the years. Probably the best known recent adaptation was Hollow Man, which I personally found to be over the top and not very good. I don't think I could possibly count the large number of times that invisibility has been used in television series.

I always liked the season one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer guest starring Clea DuVall as Marcie, a girl who is so ignored by her classmates that she becomes invisible. Whereas most other stories, including The Invisible Man film, tend to highlight the naughty deeds one would perform if no one could see them, the Buffy episode highlighted just how miserable it can be to feel invisible. If I was able to choose any superpower I wanted, invisibility would not be it. Though getting to be a secret agent like Marcie does in the episode wouldn't be a bad consolation prize!


  1. +JMJ+

    I've been dragging my feet on this challenge lately, haven't I? =( The friend who promised to lend me Creature from the Black Lagoon can't find his DVD and now I'm kind of stuck.

    Good call on The Invisible Man, though! The reason I didn't make him part of this challenge was that I'm already planning to read the H.G. Wells novel for another challenge. (I hear you: What kind of a reason is that??? LOL!)

    I wasn't too impressed by Hollow Man, either--so much so that I didn't figure out it was a modern retelling of Wells's story until years after I watched it. (Funny? Or sad?) I love the contrast you draw between the idea of invisibility as a superpower--and one which can easily go to someone's head--and the idea of invisibility as some kind of curse, which is what we see in that episode of Buffy. It had a great twist in the end, aye? But I always wondered how those teachers kept track of their invisible students . . . =P

  2. I always found it to be morbid that the Invisible Man's body was rotting in a chair in the room and nobody noticed. Was the smell invisible? Did nobody use that chair in the passing weeks, months? But I tend to over-analyze throwaway jokes like that.

    Reading this I can't help but remember the Hollow Man story and wonder if it was intentionally mirroring the concepts brought forward here or not, especially the rape scene and handful of sexual assault moments Bacon's invisibility granted.

    And while we're on the topic of super powers, invisibility has always been my number two "if I could have any power" on my list!

  3. I figured you were probably having some trouble with finding the movies available online to live blog, so I might as well do the one I knew you wouldn't be doing. :)

    It's a shame Netflix hasn't gone global yet - they have Creature up in their streaming database.

    I actually thought about reading the book as well before doing this to add that to my review, but I tend to be a slow reader and the last time I tried to rush through reading for the sake of a review, I thought the review suffered for it. I did get the free version on my Kindle though, so I hope to read it eventually.

    Maybe the teachers had heat vision, or could read minds, so they always knew if the students were there or not. I always figured it was a sort of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters in the Buffyverse, anyway. :)

  4. Scotty- Man, I thought I tended to overanalyze things! You have surpassed me by far, congratulations! :)

    Interesting idea about Hollow Man. You could be right. It might also explain why that movie missed the mark in so many ways.. they focused on the wrong things.

  5. +JMJ+

    I had already "compromised" with myself by deciding to do "Twelve Things" reviews on those I couldn't live blog, but I hadn't counted on a missing DVD! =P Yes, I really wish Netflix were already available where I live!

  6. Now I'm tempted to review Hollow Man 2 when I need another break from chick flicks ...

  7. E - I like your Twelve Things post, so that's a good compromise. :)

    Scotty - I see it stars Christian Slater. I think I will wait for your possible review rather than attempting to watch it myself!


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