The Invisible Man

Critics Consensus

James Whale's classic The Invisible Man features still-sharp special effects, loads of tension, a goofy sense of humor, and a memorable debut from Claude Rains.



Total Count: 37


Audience Score

User Ratings: 11,085
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Movie Info

A mysterious stranger, his face swathed in bandages and his eyes obscured by dark spectacles, has taken a room at a cozy inn in the British village of Ipping. Never leaving his quarters, the stranger demands that the staff leave him completely alone. Working unmolested with his test tubes, the stranger does not notice when the landlady inadvertently walks into his room one morning. But she notices that her guest seemingly has no head! The stranger, one Jack Griffin, is a scientist, who'd left Ipping several months earlier while conducting a series of tests with a strange new drug called monocane. He returns to the laboratory of his mentor, Dr. Cranley (Henry Travers), where he reveals his secret to onetime partner Dr. Kemp (William Harrigan) and former fiancee Flora Cranley (Gloria Stuart). Monocane is a formula for invisibility, and has rendered Griffin's entire body undetectable to the human eye. Alas, monocane has also had the side effect of driving Griffin insane. With megalomanic glee, Griffin takes Kemp into his confidence, explaining how he plans to prove his superiority over other humans by wreaking as much havoc as possible. At first, his pranks are harmless; then, without batting an eyelash, he turns to murder, beginning with the strangling of a comic-relief constable. When Kemp tries to turn Griffin over to the police, he himself is marked for death. Despite elaborate measures taken by the police, Griffin is able to murder Kemp, considerately taking the time to describe his homicidal methods to his helpless victim. After a reign of terror costing hundreds of lives, Griffin is cornered in a barn, his movements betrayed by his footsteps in the snow. Mortally wounded by police bullets, Griffin is taken to a hospital, where he regretfully tells Flora that he's paying the price for meddling into Things Men Should Not Know. As Griffin dies, his face becomes slowly visible: first the skull, then the nerve endings, then layer upon layer of raw flesh, until he is revealed to be Claude Rains, making his first American film appearance. So forceful was Rains' verbal performance as "The Invisible One" that he became an overnight movie star (after nearly twenty years on stage). Wittily scripted by R.C. Sherriff and an uncredited Philip Wylie, and brilliantly directed by James Whale, The Invisible Man is a near-untoppable combination of horror and humor. Also deserving of unqualified praise are the thorouhgly convincing special effects by John P. Fulton and John Mescall. With the exception of The Invisible Man Returns, none of the sequels came anywhere close to the quality of the 1933 original. Trivia alert: watch for Dwight "Renfield" Frye as a bespectacled reporter, Walter Brennan as the man whose bicycle was stolen, and John Carradine as the fellow in the phone booth who's "gawt a plan to ketch the h'invisible man." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi


Claude Rains
as The Invisible Man
Gloria Stuart
as Flora Cranley
Henry Travers
as Cr. Cranley
William Harrigan
as Doctor Kemp
Una O'Connor
as Mrs. Jenny Hall
Forrester Harvey
as Mr. Herbert Hall
Holmes Herbert
as Chief of Police
E.E. Clive
as Jaffers
Dudley Digges
as Chief of Detectives
Harry Stubbs
as Inspector Bird
Donald Stuart
as Inspector Lane
Dwight Frye
as Reporter
Walter Brennan
as Man With Bike
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News & Interviews for The Invisible Man

Critic Reviews for The Invisible Man

All Critics (37) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (37)

  • In his first cinema role, which must have been easy for him to play since it amounts to very little more than an offstage noise, Claude Rains gives an alarming performance, almost as frightening when he is present as when he is not.

    Oct 21, 2010 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic
  • The strangest character yet created by the screen [from the novel by H.G. Wells] roams through The Invisible Man.

    Nov 6, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • James Whale's 1933 film plays more like a British folk comedy than a horror movie; it's full of the same deft character twists that made his Bride of Frankenstein a classic.

    Jun 4, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Rains, with his clear, sensitively inflected voice, was lucky: it made him a star.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • It is hardly necessary to dwell upon the performances of the cast beyond saying that they all rise to the demands of their parts. As for the settings, they seem very real, and the direction and acting of the uniformed police force are unusually good.

    Jan 28, 2006 | Full Review…
  • The many special effects -- some retouched on film by hand -- are quaint by today's digital standards, but that only makes them all the more fun.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Invisible Man

  • Nov 02, 2018
    More of a moral think piece than a horror movie, The Invisible Man is actually a damn fascinating story. Jumping right into things with Griffin already invisible, it shows the questioning of what would you do with this power and how far would it go to your head. Showcasing what were at the time some state-of-the-art effects and a shockingly thorough understanding of how paranoid you really would have to be when dealing with an invisible assailant, the chase for Griffin is really enjoyable to watch, as is his descent into madness. While it is a 30s film so some of the more graphic details of the invisible man are left out, you still get a pretty grim portrayal of the man. Not only that, it's a surprisingly funny film at times with a darkly goofy sense of humor. I really enjoyed it, and it got me interested in the premise and the other entries in the franchise.
    Michael M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 05, 2014
    Boasting awe-striking special effects that still seem remarkably trailblazing even today, landmark sci-fi adaptation The Invisible Man keeps the wit and thrills fresh 70 years on. Science can't explain the film's seemingly timeless hold on audiences. Film criticism can, however, and it comes down to proven visionary director James Whale and the debut of stage actor Claude Rains. Just a year before, Whale gave audiences a stylish, unqualified classic with Frankenstein, demonstrating a knack for combining humor and horror in a complementary manner that only heightens both. In fact, The Invisible Man at times feels like a folksy English comedy with some frightening moments thrown in. Whatever the approach, it succeeds brilliantly. In this unrated sci-fi Universal classic, a scientist (Rains) finds a way of becoming invisible, but in doing so, he becomes murderously insane. The only reason the film gets thrown into the horror ring is the title characters descent into murderous madness even if the rest remains strictly science fiction. Thankfully, Rains pulls it off in spades without ever fully physically appearing save for one scene. Broadway honed his voice well, which bodes well for his run through this maddening gauntlet. Gloria Stuart, who would go on to win an Oscar in her late '80s for Titanic in 1996, plays his long-suffering fiancée to wonderful effect. Bottom line: Full Transparency
    Jeff B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 13, 2014
    Another James Whale classic! The most psychotic and power crazy villain of the entire Universal Monster saga: The Invisible Man.
    ZACHO D Super Reviewer
  • Jul 10, 2013
    The Invisible Man is a successful H.G. Welles adaption, and while being from the early 30s still holds up well as a horror. The great thing about this is what most modern horror films lack, the element of mystery. In the opening scene we don't know who the man is, how he became invisible, what his intents were, the audience knows just as much as the shop keeper. Except we have the title. The special effects in this film are far ahead of there times. It's also highly imaginative, not just an invisible man, but it talks about how he can be seen if his nails are dirty of it there's rain. The narrative of this story feels like a book, in fact you don't have to look on the screen to know whats going on. The film has moments of over acting, but not enough to bother me. The old fashioned environment of this is what makes it great and eerie. Despite being to an extent scary it has a cozy feeling to it. Hollowman tries to recreate a similar concept 70 years later and it was ENJOYABLE (emphasis on enjoyable since it wasn't really good). I prefer the old special effects of The Invisible Man and the more homey environment of this film. One of the most pleasant horror films I've seen lately.
    Daniel D Super Reviewer

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