H.G. Wells Double Feature at the Film Forum Tonight!
James Whale’s comedy horror take on the H.G. Wells’s classic The Invisible Man starts in medias res with scientist Claude Raines already well down the path to lunacy, which happens to run in tandem with the road to invisibility. It is a road down which our hilarious anti-hero will eventually skip like a little girl singing “Here We Go Gathering Nuts in May.” Already transparent from the outset, he shows up at a country inn during a snow storm, run by the hysterical but obnoxious Una O’Connor, whom Whale would use again to similar purpose in The Bride of Frankenstein. But Raines is already going insane and attacks whomever is interfering with him. Soon he is roaming throughout the countryside causing havoc, and forcing his former rival (William Harrigan) to do his bidding. The police form a dragnet, they eventually trap him in a barn, set it on fire, and watch his footprints in the snow for where to shoot, killing him.
And when he dies, it is the first time we see Claude Raines on screen! Ever! His performance is great, very campy, one of the best insane villains ever, with an excellent wheezy laugh calculated to put a chill up your spine. Titanic’s Gloria Stuart is the thankless fiancé/love interest. And Henry Travers (the guy who played Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life is her father and Raines’ employer.
Definitely the best Hollywood version of Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau (though it’s not hard to beat the Burt Lancaster and Marlon Brando ones). But it’s more than that; it’s actually one of the most chilling, nightmarish and disturbing horror movies of the 1930s. Charles Laughton chews the scenery as the cruel and callous Moreau. Bela Lugosi as the Sayer of the Law. (His “are we not men?” became part of Devo’s theme song). The monster rebellion, with all those torch lit nighttime black and white scenes at the climax is quite terrifying. After seeing this film, you will be guaranteed to treat your pets with more kindness.
For tix and info go here.