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IT SEEMS THAT everyone is a flutter with the confirmed announcement of Johnny Depp’s attachment to the latest Universal franchise in The Invisible Man.

News that I could have sworn had drifted into the arena a while ago now but has resurfaced with his latest Pirates of the Caribbean outing.

It’s a choice that seems logical when you look at Depp’s filmography, in particular his leanings to the macabre and gothic stories that he has graced on the screen,

As part of some of the recent articles I’ve written, I’ve been casting myself back through the Universal Horror vault and scrutinizing the films of yester-year. When the production house hit their stride off the back of successes with Dracula and Frankenstein, they began to march out similar stories, some stronger than others.

1933’s The Invisible Man happens to be one of the better movies of that era. Based on the novel by notorious science fiction writer, H.G. Wells, who happens to have hailed from my neck of the woods in Bromley, Kent, England, so top bloke then. J

In this adaptation, Universal went all out to make the special FX convincing and frightening enough that it was considered groundbreaking for its time and still stands strong today.

Whilst watching the movie, the use of this effect is certainly the centerpiece and Universal weren’t shy in using it, and threw the audience into the action, fairly early on, with a slight build up of character development before hand.

FX aside, it is Rains who steals the show with his performance as Dr Jack Griffin aka The Invisible Man in what was his debut in an American feature.

Despite the fact that we only ever see his face in the films conclusion, Rains manages to portray the maniacal menace of the doctor, (who curiously the story of his unfortunate transition is never seen) with absolute believability.

Rains would go on to feature in several Universal features including The Wolf Man and Phantom of the Opera.

But for me, he will forever be cemented as Capt. Louis Renault in Casablanca.

There is an amiable support cast too that lends weight to the strength of this film including Gloria Stuart (The Old Dark House, and the older Rose in James Cameron’s Titanic), Henry Travers (It’s A Wonderful Life), and Una O’Connor (Bride of Frankenstein).

All of whom are helmed together by the fabulous director James Whale, who also directed Universal’s last successful film, Frankenstein, proving that this was no mere fluke and would go on to achieve further success with Bride of Frankenstein.

Such was the success of this feature that it would spawn several sequels, including one that would star Vincent Price.

It as often been emanated but never in my humble opinion repeated. The less said about John Carpenter’s The Memoirs of an Invisible Man and The Hollow Man, the better.

 

– Paul Farrell