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Universal's forgotten fiend
by T.J. Tranchell

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I was in a second-run theater not long ago and had some time to kill. I strolled into the arcade and had to decide between the only two games I am any good at: a first-person shooter or pinball. The pinball machine available was Universal's MONSTER BASH, so naturally I drifted that way. I played, did OK, then saw the movie I was there for. It wasn't until a few days later that I noticed something odd.

Not long after exhibiting my limited pinball wizardry, I found a copy of THE INVISIBLE MAN LEGACY COLLECTION DVD for a very reasonable price. That's when it hit me. One hardly ever sees the Invisible Man with the other monsters. And not just because he's invisible, either. It's almost like he's been forgotten. If you asked me if The Invisible man is on the Universal Monsters logo, I'd have to say no. He should be, but in my memory, he's just not there.

This could easily become the most stupid pun-filled column I have ever written, as you may have noticed. I'm going to try to avoid that. All the puns I could come up with are glaringly obvious.

In the matter of THE INVISIBLE MAN, James Whale's 1933 film, calling it a classic would be
Hello? Invisible Man, are you there? I don't think so.

Hello? Invisible Man, are you there? I don't think so.
an understatement of the highest order. Deciding what else to say, though, gets more difficult so I will stick to just a few key elements.

Claude Rains. That's right. It's all about the voice when it comes to playing the Invisible Man. The legend goes that Whale agreed that Rains' lone screen test up to that time was awful when it came to acting, but his voice was perfect. Rains was a nobody, with no Hollywood experience and if it wasn't for THE INVISIBLE MAN, audiences quite possibly could have been deprived of his talent forever and been none the wiser.

Just for a second, imagine CASABLANCA without Claude Rains. Sure, they would have found someone else for his role but with Rains in the film, it becomes complete. Once again, Hollywood has horror to thank for getting one of its best actors his first starring role.

Now for a word on the groundbreaking special effects: awesome.

What? You need further explanation? You want to know how, in 1933, they turned a man invisible on the screen and made it look reasonably realistic? Sorry. I'm not telling. Not my job to reveal the secrets of moviemaking. I prefer to maintain as much of
James Whale (as played by Ian McKellan), a TRUE master of horror.

James Whale (as played by Ian McKellan), a TRUE master of horror.
the magic as I can. Just watch the movie and figure it out for yourself. Or get the same DVD collection I bought and watch the bonus documentary. Like most of the LEGACY COLLECTION sets, the much too short documentary on this one is written and produced by David J. Skal. When it comes to the history and analysis of horror history, Skal is the man. I bow to his superior knowledge. I also quote his work whenever it seems appropriate.

We've talked about Rains and the special effects, but what else makes THE INVISIBLE MAN a classic able to hang out with Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, the Wolf-Man, and the rest of the gang? He's been mentioned before.

If you haven't seen GODS AND MONSTERS, get off your butt and go get it right now. I will wait.

Oh, good. You're back. So now that you've seen GODS AND MONSTERS (which mostly focuses on the making of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and rightly so), you have seen that James Whale was a freaking genius. You might also start to wonder why his name never comes up when it comes to lists of horror directors, especially who is and is not a "master of horror." Tod Browning comes up all the time and
Never has there been a more appropriate film for a fading career.

Never has there been a more appropriate film for a fading career.
many critics (those contemporary to him and those of today) consider him a hack. Hell, how many people think Edward D. Wood, Jr before James Whale when asked to name a horror director from the days of black and white? Too many, that's how many.

Whale was too good for his own good and managed to avoid being tagged as simply a horror director. Yes, his career eventually stalled and he committed suicide, but you already knew that because you just watched GODS AND MONSTERS like the good little ghouls and boos I know you are. If you haven't yet, just go along for now and correct your egregious error as soon as you can.

So three things, that's all you need to know about THE INVISIBLE MAN and why you should watch it: Claude Rains, excellent special effects, and James Whale. One would think that would be enough to get higher billing than The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but no. It even got to be in MONSTER SQUAD. Where was the Invisible Man?

He was probably right there, going unnoticed, just waiting for the right time to say hello. Either that or he was still in seclusion after having seen Chevy Chase in MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN.

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The Show Begins at 10:31.
Every other Friday

Take my hand and follow me to the darkest corners of the theater. All your favorite monsters, psychos and masked killers are here, waiting for you to say hello.

Other Columns
Other columns by T.J. Tranchell:

Feeling (Rob) Zombie-fied

Hit the road, Jack

Camcorder Carnage

The scariest movie of all time

Home is where the horror is

All Columns

T.J. Tranchell
Born on Halloween and raised in a single screen theater managed by his grandpa, T.J. now spends more time than should be healthy staying up past midnight reading Stephen King and watching Friday the 13th movies. Part 3 is the best one.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to T.J. Tranchell by clicking here.

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