H.G. Wells

All posts tagged H.G. Wells

DAY 6 OF 31: THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933)

Published October 6, 2019 by Philip Ivory

Yesterday we looked at ISLAND OF LOST SOULS. Now we turn to another adaptation of an H.G. Wells novel, one that was greeted more warmly by the public and the author himself.

Universal, continuing its roll of superior horror productions in the early 30s, released THE INVISIBLE MAN in 1933. It starred Claude Rains as scientist Jack Griffin, who, dreaming of doing something no man has ever done, injects himself with a drug of his own creation that turns him invisible. All this he does to impress his lady love, Flora, played by Gloria Stuart.

At the beginning of the film, Griffin has secreted himself away in a country inn, hoping to reverse his invisibility so he can return to Flora. Wrapped in bandages, prone to temperamental fits, he brings disaster upon himself by throwing the innkeeper down a flight of stairs.

In a famous scene, Griffin, confronted by a gawking band of locals including a thick-headed constable, raves as he unwraps his bandages, bewildering his onlookers as he reveals himself to be invisible. Then he goes on a murderous rampage. You see, a side effect of the drug — one Griffin is unaware of — is madness.

“You’ve driven me near madness with your peering through the keyholes and gaping through the curtains, and now you’ll suffer for it! You’re crazy to know who I am, aren’t you?! All right! I’ll show you!!”

James Whale, director of FRANKENSTEIN, brings his usual romantic panache for the love scenes and touches of dark wit. Witness the scene in which horrified villagers run from a bicycle that rides itself through the village square, or the vignette in which a seemingly empty pair of trousers skips along a country lane as Griffin sings “Here we go gathering nuts in May.”

But the touches of humor are balanced by sheer terror. Under Flora’s influence, Griffin can recover some semblance of his humanity. He is gentle and loving in his scenes with her. But out of her influence, he is a maniac, bashing policeman to death and derailing trains, causing hundreds of deaths. (He may be the most prolific murder among the classic monsters.)

Claude Rains’ face remains unseen until the final moments, when Griffin becomes visible, proclaiming his famous final line before dying: “I meddled in things that man must leave alone.” Rains’ wonderful vocal tones and rich, theatrical delivery of the excellent dialogue, as well as his powerful use of hand gestures, result in an unforgettable portrayal.

DIALOGUE

“We’ll begin with a reign of terror. A few murders here and there. Murders of great men, murders of little men, just to show we make no distinction. We might even wreck a train or two – just these fingers around the signalman’s throat, that’s all…”

“There is a way back, Flora! And then I shall come to you. I shall offer my secret to the world, with all its terrible power! The nations of the world will bid for it – thousands, millions! The nation that wins my secret can sweep the world with invisible armies!”

“Power, I said! Power to walk into the gold vaults of the nations, into the secrets of kings, into the Holy of Holies. Power to make multitudes run squealing in terror at the touch of my little invisible finger. Even the moon’s frightened of me! Frightened to death! The whole world’s frightened to death!

 INTERESTING FACTS

  • The special effects, which included such techniques as dressing Rains all in black against a black backdrop before combining that footage with the scene’s actual background, were groundbreaking for the time and much praised by critics.
  • The film spawned a number of sequels, all missing Claude Rains and the Jack Griffin character, although sometimes a Griffin relative would show up to resurrect the invisibility formula. A few of the sequels got pretty far from the source, including INVISIBLE WOMAN and INVISIBLE AGENT, a wartime story showing an invisible patriot parachuting into Germany to play havoc with the Third Reich.
  • Gloria Stuart almost disappeared from film screens starting in the 1940s, but made a memorable return decades later as the older version of Kate Winslet’s character in 1997’s TITANIC.

UP NEXT:

“You must be indulgent of Dr. Werdegast’s weakness. He is the unfortunate victim of one of the commoner phobias, but in an extreme form. He has an intense and all-consuming horror of cats!”

DAY 5 OF 31: ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932)

Published October 5, 2019 by Philip Ivory

Based on H.G. Wells’ 1896 novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau, ISLAND OF LOST SOULS is about a mad scientists who performs horrifying surgical experiments to transform animals into man-like creatures, with varying degrees of success.

Moreau is played by Charles Laughton with a wicked gleam in his eye, like a devilish schoolboy who can’t hide his pleasure at his own cruelty. There’s something unwholesome and transgressive about Laughton’s Moreau, setting him apart from other mad doctor portrayals.

The Paramount release, a gruesome challange to Universal’s more tasteful horrors, becomes increasingly disturbing as we are afforded glimpses of the pathetic pseudo humans created in Moreau’s “House of Pain” who lurk in the jungle foliage.

Bela Lugosi, heavily made-up and relegated to a supporting role so soon after his starring turn in DRACULA, plays the Sayer of the Law, who leads the other manbeasts in answering the Godlike Moreau as they recite the credo he has taught them.

Island-Of-Lost-Souls-Lugosi_1337938856_crop_550x409

MOREAU: What is the Law?

SAYER: Not to run on all fours. That is the law. Are we not men?

170px-Burke_Arlen_newmovie533

MOREAU: What is the Law?

SAYER: Not to spill blood. That is the law. Are we not men?

A horrified visitor to the island, played by Richard Arlen, falls in love with Lota, the Panther Woman, played by Kathleen Burke. She may be Moreau’s most successful experiment, but the romance is doomed nonetheless.

When Moreau defies his own law by killing one of the man beasts, he is set upon by those he has tortured and maimed. In a climax as horrifying as the one in Todd Browning’s FREAKS, the pathetic creatures drag him into the House of Pain for off-screen poetic justice via impromptu surgery.

maxresdefaultbb

ISLAND OF LOST SOULS was too grim for most viewers, and banned outright in the UK for decades. It stands today as the finest adaptation of Wells’ novel, although Wells himself was horrified at the time of its release and disowned the film. There’s a Criterion Collection Blu Ray/DVD that’s well worth checking out.

UP NEXT:

“Look! He’s all eaten away!”