The Invisible Man (1933)

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Released 3-Oct-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Menu Audio
Featurette-Now You See Him-The Invisible Man Revealed
Audio Commentary-Rudy Behlmer (Film Historian)
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1933
Running Time 68:34
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (0:00) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By James Whale
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Claude Rains
Gloria Stuart
Henry Travers
William Harrigan
Una O'Connor
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Paul Dupont
Franke W. Harling
Heinz Roemheld


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Czech
Greek
Turkish
Arabic
Hungarian
Romanian
English Audio Commentary
Czech Audio Commentary
Greek Audio Commentary
Turkish Audio Commentary
Arabic Audio Commentary
Hungarian Audio Commentary
Romanian Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Some of the movies of James Whale are classics. Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Old Dark House and of course The Invisible Man spring immediately to mind. They are horror movies with attitude, and although made in the early 1930s they still stand up today as some of the best examples of what you can do when you are dedicated to your art. Purchasing the rights to H.G. Well's cautionary tale for a mere $10,000, the screenplay by R.C. Sherriff and the direction of James Whale, as well as the casting of Claude Rains as The Invisible Man make this hard not to admire. The movie is a tight 69 minutes long, has excellent special effects that don't look odd even when compared with today's CGI masterpieces and, apart from the over-the-top acting and melodrama that was so in vogue during the 1930s, this is definitely one for the collection.

   It has been well documented that the title role in the movie was originally offered to Boris Karloff but he turned it down because of contract disputes. It is also known that Claude Rains was never anyone's idea for the star of the movie after a rather disastrous audition and film test, but nobody could have carried it off better, with a voice that was as moody and powerful as anyone in the business. For the English actor, it began his rise to fame and it is interesting to note that although he only appears in the movie (in the flesh that is) right at the end, it is still the role for which he is best remembered. As for Whale, he was the quintessential moviemaker who enjoyed a golden period during the mid 1930s before being curtailed by a change in management and eventually fading from sight altogether.

   The film opens much as the original novel does. A man carrying an overlarge suitcase struggles towards an inn in a snow storm. Upon entering the inn he pauses for a second and the locals get their first look at this stranger, who is swathed in bandages. Demanding a room and food he is soon the subject of much gossip amongst the locals. As for the mysterious stranger, he sets up shop in his small room, running a small laboratory where he works feverishly trying to find a cure for his peculiar affliction. This affliction is shown off in small portions to the audience to heighten the suspense, but when he becomes violent after been confronted for not paying his bill, he suddenly reveals his true identity as that of the Invisible Man.

   The story itself is nothing spectacular; a scientist who makes a mistake and goes mad due to it, a killing spree that has everyone running scared against an adversary who is invisible and a couple of fellow scientists who want to help but are just as frightened as everyone else. Add to the mix a girlfriend who still cares for him and you have the typical mid 30s movie script. But, if nothing else can be said of James Whale, he always tinges his movies with a sense of humour, sometimes dry, sometimes deadpan, but always there below the surface. The movie itself is highly entertaining and quite slapstick in parts, and for those of you who love the old black and white movies this is definitely one to get.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    If I was about to turn 70 and was in as good a shape as this movie I'd be well pleased. Don't expect anything brilliant, but for a movie made in 1933 this is a very decent transfer which says something about both its appeal and its importance in movie history.

    The disc is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (Academy Standard), Full Frame format.

    Sharpness is excellent given its age, with clearly visible outlines and sharply contrasted backgrounds although edge enhancement has been used and if you look hard you'll see it. Since most of the movie takes place on sets, background detail is a little less important, but there was a good deal of depth to the picture nonetheless and shadow detail was fairly good throughout. Some of the fine lines though, have been lost with the transition of time and degradation of the source material. Grain is fairly minimal although ever-present during the entire movie. Still, it never becomes annoying or ruins the picture quality. Low level noise is evident everywhere but this is most probably due to the age of the source material rather than any flaw in the production quality or transfer.

    Black and white is the order of the day here with good contrast between the blacks and the whites and all the shades in between. There are a myriad of imperfections that discolour the pristine nature of both the white and black colours but they are a minor problem with the overall look still intact.

    There are literally thousands of small flecks and missing pieces of emulsion noticeable from the start and increasing in frequency from 9:41 on. Still, after a few minutes you shouldn't notice any but the most obvious (30:32 - a slight water blemish) as you adjust to the quality. Thin lines run down the print on almost every frame (eg: 2:10), giving evidence of the age of the source material with only the occasional very noticeable example (18:01, thicker white line). There is evidence of sprocket tears in the print. You'll notice the picture blurring for a split second (18:45, 23:32, 56:31) or seeming to move at an angle then correct itself. Old film stock usually had this problem. There appears to be a couple of unexplained jumps in the movie, probably breaks that occurred in the original print and were spliced. For the most part they are single frames that are missed (eg: 59:49). Pixelization can be seen from time to time (36:07 - on the edge of a paper) but otherwise most compression artefacts are blissfully absent. A reel change marker was noted at 33:49 although there appeared to be only one.

    The subtitles are good, easily visible against the black, white and grey background and also very accurate to the dialogue. They are presented in a good font and don't interfere too much with the action on the screen.

    There was no layer change noted on this disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    A strictly monaural soundtrack, this is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack at 192 kilobits per second. The sound is quite hollow, almost tinny in places, but there is an evenness to it which makes it a lot easier on the ear. There was also a noticeable hiss in the soundtrack that died down after a few seconds at around 35:58. Fortunately, this was the only real glitch in the audio track.

    The dialogue is excellent with all voices sounding good even given the age of the movie. Audio sync was spot on, although it wasn't hard to match Claude Rains voice with that of the Invisible Man, even though most of it was ADR work done either post or pre-production.

    The music is credited to three composers; Paul Dupont, W. Franke Harling and Heinz Roemheld. It is very orchestral in the 1930s style; moody, sombre and when the chase is afoot, it has that real melodramatic sound to it. In fact, it suits the material perfectly.

    There was no surround channel nor subwoofer usage on this disc.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu Audio

    A static picture for the main menu with a 20-odd second loop of music from the movie.

Featurette - Now You See Him - 35:21

    Hosted by Rudy Behlmer (with subtitles available), this interesting featurette offers up details on the original author of the book, H.G. Wells and his philosophy, his ethics and various details on the control he got over the movie and the final script. There are also outtakes from the movie Gods and Monsters, which is a biopic on the life of James Whale (starring Ian McKellen). Various opinions are presented from movie makers, film historians, and so forth on Whale's life in movies, about the movies prior to this including Frankenstein, The Old Dark House and how Whale dominated the movies he made in this period and added his own unique style to them, in essence giving them a longevity many of his other movies didn't attain. It is a fascinating half hour with a real quality to it and worth the watch.

Audio Commentary

    Possibly even more interesting than the actual movie dialogue itself, this excellent audio commentary is by film historian Rudy Behlmer whose knowledge of this movie, James Whale and everything to do with the making of this movie is a real joy to listen to. Apart from this, Behlmer is one of those rare speakers who is concise and articulate with a voice that is easy to warm to and he simply never becomes boring or trite, although it's quite possible this was edited. The details he offers about the making of the movie, especially the excellent special effects are quite incisive. Even 70 years on, the special effects used in this movie look good. They might not match Hollow Man, but at least they aren't laughable.

Gallery-Photo

    A slide show with a running time of 4:29 offering up approximately 48 stills with accompanying music from the movie.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 and Region 4 release of this disc appear identical.

Summary

    A classic movie from the 1930s presented on an excellent DVD for those lovers of old movies. They don't come much better than this and even given the age of the original source material it is still good quality. The video has been reasonably well preserved with only minor flaws. Film artefacts are very noticeable, but apart from that and a few sprocket hole tears, this is probably as good as you'll ever see. The audio is adequate and extras are pretty damned decent for such an old movie, and worth the purchase price alone.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Friday, January 03, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD5300, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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