The Invisible Man is a surprisingly well-made and enjoyable film. It was based on H.G. Wells’s 1897 novel of the same name, though there are some notable differences between the film and the novel, for example in the book Griffin is naturally a-moral and insane, whereas in the film he consumes chemicals which make him both crazy as well as invisible. H.G. Wells later commented at a dinner in honor of the film that he was disappointed in the way his “brilliant scientist” was portrayed. The success of the film would later launch a number of sequels. It stars Claude Rains as the invisible man, though his role mostly encompassed the portrayal of the disembodied voice of an invisible man. Initially Boris Karloff was set to play the lead, as he did in other famous James Whale films, but he left after Carl Laemmie Jr. cut his salary one too many times.
In a beautiful snowy stage-set, a man wrapped in full bandages appears at an inn in England to stay for the night. He frightens the staff and guests who soon discover his horrible secret, that he is invisible under his bandages. He hides away in his room to try to find an antidote, away from his fiancee Flora and teacher Dr. Cranley. However his experiments are interrupted and he terrorizes the innkeepers and the police before fleeing. He goes to the home of an associate who he intimidates into being his partner as part of his “reign of terror” to take over supreme over the world by killing prominent people. He has gone insane. When his associate contacts the authorities, the invisible man goes into a rage and threatens to kill him, which he eventually does by driving him off a cliff in a car. However, soon an old farmer alerts the police that the invisible man has fallen asleep in his barn so the police arrive and burn down the barn and watch his footsteps in the snow on the ground. One of the policemen shoots the invisible man. With his dying breath, he expresses regret to Flora. At the end he dies and becomes visible again.
I thoroughly enjoyed this excellent film. The effects are remarkable for the time and though the plot is simple, it is gratifying to watch the invisible man attack his doubters, then promptly go insane, and become trapped by his own ploy.