In 1933, Universal Studios presented a film adaptation of H. G. Wells science fiction novel The Invisible Man. The main character in the film proved to be just that, not making an appearance until the last few seconds of the film, after he has died. Before that, he is only a voice and a maniacal laugh. However, from the first moment he speaks, this unknown actor’s voice promised to be one quite out of the ordinary. That intense mix of a low, slightly rasping baritone and a strong, piercing falsetto surely captivated the audience from its first words. However, if his unique vocal talents don’t captivate you, you certainly will fall for him at the first look at his face. That handsome, placid face of a young man cut off in the prime of his life. You certainly will be surprised to learn that this is the face of a man of forty-four, since the sweetness and serenity of that face hides any signs of aging it might have. Thus was the screen debut of the famous actor Claude Rains! As a great admirer of this famous actor, it was a thrill for me to finally see his debut performance. It is surely no surprise that his career skyrocketed after this, for his portrayal of a character without the use of facial expressions is remarkable. While his style could be considered a bit theatrical for the screen, it works perfectly for this role, since everything has to be interpreted with big gestures and loud speaking.
Not everything about this film is perfect, despite it’s brilliant leading actor and remarkable special effects, because it was made without the guiding hand of the PCA, which wouldn’t be instated until the next year. For the 4th Annual Great Breening Blogathon, in honor of Joseph I. Breen’s 132nd birthday, I will show how the Code could have improved this film with just a few changes. By the way, while we’re speaking about the famous actor, Claude Rains, don’t forget to join our Third Annual Claude Rains Blogathon in honor of his 131st birthday! Now, the lights dim, the theater, hushes, and the screen fades into view. Lock your doors and shutter your windows, because here comes The Invisible Man!
- The first problem occurs a good way into the film, when Dr. Griffin (Claude Rains) is in his room at The Lion’s Head Inn, working with his chemicals. As he works feverishly, he exclaims, “There must be a way back! God knows there’s a way back!” The italicized expression is taking the Lord’s name in vain and must be changed. Instead, he should say, “I know there’s a way back!”
2. The next problem occurs in the scene when he finally removes his bandages and reveals that he is invisible. He delivers a speech on the wondrous abilities of an invisible man which includes the phrase, “He can rob and rape and kill!” The italicized word is a bit pointed and should be removed. Instead, he could say, “He can spy and rob and kill!”
3. The next problem occurs in the scene when Dr. Griffin breaks into the house of his friend Dr. Kemp (William Harrigan). As he pulls up a chair and sits down by the hearth, he says, “Thank God for a fire.” Once again, this usage of the Lord’s name is a bit irreverent and should be changed to “Thank heaven” or “thank goodness.”
4. Later in the scene, Dr. Griffin tells Kemp, “I’ve been through hell today.” This usage of “hell” is a bit pointed and should be changed. Instead, he should say, “You don’t know what I’ve been through today.”
5. Later, when Griffin returns to the Lion’s Head Inn to retrieve his books, he ends up choking a policeman and then walking him in the head with a stool. While this murder itself is not unduly violent, his description of it to Kemp is. When Kemp asks what the yelling and screaming was, Griffin replies. “I had to take some exercise to keep warm. I killed a stupid little policeman. Smashed his head in.” The last sentence is too violent and should be eliminated.
6. The next problem occurs a couple of scenes later. Kemp, desperate and frightened, calls his employer, Dr. Cranley (Henry Travers), who is also the father of Griffin’s fiancee, Flora (Gloria Stuart). While Dr. Cranley is on the phone, Flora comes downstairs. She is wearing a white nightgown with no apparent support under it. It must be ensured that she is properly supported.
7. The final problem occurs the next time we see Flora. She is once again wearing a white nightgown with little support under it. She must be properly supported under this outfit, as well.
This concludes my breening of The Invisible Man. With only seven objections, this film hardly seemed worth self-regulating at first. However, it just goes to show that even the film’s with the smallest objection need the watchful eye of the PCA. After all, if you let one film get away with seven objections, it’s only a matter of time until you have films like Some Like It Hot and Psycho. It might seem like a rather lacking breening project, but, as a self-regulator, it is very nice to see a film from the wild Pre-Code era with so few objections. This film, which was made the year before the PCA was put in place, has far less objections than the average film from 1955, when the Code was supposedly still being upheld. I hope you enjoyed this breening journey! Be sure to see the other articles submitted for this blogathon here! Thank you for joining me. I’ll see you next time!
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