“He’s invisible, and mad!” Those four short words from the classic Universal horror The Invisible Man sum up the film more than any plot synopsis ever could. Directed by James Whale in between 1931’s Frankenstein and 1935’s Brideof Frankenstein, the movie is often overshadowed by its monstrous companions but The Invisible Man should not be overlooked. The movie features some astounding and groundbreaking special effects which seem years ahead of their time. These are combined with H.G. Wells’ classic story to form a memorable if not at times slightly formulaic horror movie.
Production on The Invisible Man was fraught with difficulty and set backs and the story went through several incarnations before it was decided to follow Wells’ own novel closely. Alternative versions featured invisible rats or even foregoing Wells’ novel altogether but it was finally decided to use the source text much more closely than originally intended. Casting for the central role was also difficult with a number of actors including Whale favourites Boris Karloff and Colin Clive coming and going before an unknown English stage actor was given the part on the merit of a rather disastrous screen test. Claude Rains had just one Hollywood screen test, years before the film was made and it didn’t go particularly well. It was said that his acting was stiff but forced and the test lead nowhere. When James Whale was looking for an actor whose voice would be doing the acting though, Rains’ test screamed out to him and he was offered the part.