The only Universal monster film from the 1930s I saw as a boy was The Invisible Man, with Claude Rains as the title character. (I caught up on The Mummy, Dracula, and Frankenstein later) But I remember this movie terrified me, perhaps more than any other movie I watched back then. Of course, there was the fact that an invisible man could be anywhere, even in my room or at the dining table. But what scared me even more was Rains’ incredible performance (no small task for a man who isn’t onscreen until the last frame). You have no problem believing that he really is a madman, willing to kill to demonstrate his power. The special effects, which truly were astounding for the time, merely add to what the actor provided.
And it’s sad that Rains is one of Universal’s least-celebrated “monsters” from that decade. H.G. Wells’ character is fully realized onscreen simply because Rains uses a versatile tone of voice, calm and collected when he is not raging or proclaiming his grandiose dreams. In short, I was as mesmerized as I was frightened.
I’m posting the first part of the movie below. It’s just over an hour long, but in my estimation The Invisible Man tells a great story in so few minutes. If you have time, check it out.