AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Universal’s The Invisible Man (1933)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2015 by Paxton

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Yesterday I discussed ground zero for invisibility in pop culture, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man.  And if that book is ground zero, then Universal’s 1933 movie adaptation of that book would be ground one.  Second only to Wells’ book in influence on popular culture.  And, as a huge fan of the Universal Monsters series, it’s a little embarrassing that I’ve never watched Universal’s The Invisible Man with Claude Rains.  It’s high time I rectified that.

Invisible Man

Released in 1933, this movie has quite the pedigree. It’s directed by James Whale who also directed the first two Universal Frankenstein movies as well as Howard Hughes’ Hells Angels.  It starred Claude Rains who, while making his American theatrical debut, would go on to star in classic movies like Casablanca, Lawrence of Arabia and Mr Smith Goes to Washington.  It was a fairly popular movie that would spawn at least 4 sequels with varying successful degrees of connection to this original movie.  Rains would return for none of them.

I’m not sure why I never watched this movie before now.  I’m well aware of the Wells’ novel and this movie based on that novel starring Claude Rains.  I’ve even seen several more modern invisible man movies like Memoirs of an Invisible Man with Chevy Chase and Hollow Man with Kevin Bacon.  I’m just not sure why I never went back to this movie like I did with Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolf Man.

So, now that I’ve seen it, let’s take a look at the movie.

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It was kind of funny to see the “We Do Our Part” NRA title card pop up after the classic Universal bi-plane logo.  Different times, my friends.


The movie is pretty good. Nicely directed and looks pretty awesome but that’s not to be surprised since…well, James Whale. Claude Rains in his American feature film debut is pretty great as Griffin.  It’s easy to see why he was picked to play the lead.

The movie itself begins “en media res” with Griffin already turned invisible and sequestering himself into a hotel room in a secluded town.  Rains spends 99% of this movie completely covered in bandages or completely invisible.

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The only thing we have to carry Rains’ performance, like I said, is his voice.  And it totally works.  His very deliberate way of speaking and the way his voice carries does everything to give the viewer what it needs for his performance.  And it’s especially effective the further into the movie you get and the more insane Griffin becomes.  His insane cackle is a thing to behold.

The movie was gorgeously dressed.  The set pieces were huge and very finely detailed.  From the hotel room and bar, to the cush offices of Rains’ former lab to the home of Gloria Stuart.  There is so much movie set “eye candy” to look at it almost distracts from the movie.  And I want Rains’ pimp smoking jacket in the above picture.  I wonder if he got to take that home.

Not much of the supporting cast lit me on fire. The main female lead is Gloria Stuart who is probably best known for playing “Old Rose” in James Cameron’s Titanic.  She is almost a non-entity in this movie, however.  We also get Una O’Conner who is a veteran character actor from the 30s-40s who would also appear in Bride of Frankenstein and The Adventures of Robin Hood.  She plays the wife of the innkeeper who shrilly shrieks her way through the first 20 minutes of the movie.  We also get a small, uncredited appearance by John Carradine who would go on to appear in several Universal Monsters pictures like Bride of Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula.  He actually portrayed Dracula in the last two as well as the non-Universal Billy the Kid versus Dracula from 1966.

As for the invisible effects, they hold up pretty well, actually.  You can see some of the composite shots where they’ve placed footage of Rains disrobing in front of a black screen and superimposed it against the regular scene, but it’s honestly not that bad.  Some of the other physical effects, like footprints in the snow are actually very artfully done.


So, this is clearly identified as an adaptation of HG Wells’ novel, The Invisible Man.  So how does it hold up as an adaptation?  There are several differences between the two.  Some in character traits and motivations.  I tried not to dwell on it too much and let Claude Rains just take me away.  But the events of the movie closely follow the novel.  Certain scenes are removed and certain characters are changed or modified.  Like I said, though, I tried not to dwell on the differences and let the movie stand on its own.

I’d definitely recommend this movie. If only for Rains’ superb vocal performance and watching an invisible man slowly go insane. It was a really good watch and I’m glad I finally marked this one off my list.  My only regret is that Hammer Studios never got around to making their own version of The Invisible Man.

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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: The Invisible Man (1897) – HG Wells

Posted in books, Classic literature, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , on October 1, 2015 by Paxton

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Yesterday, I talked about one of the very first uses of invisibility in literary fiction. Today, I’m going to discuss probably the most well known use of invisibility in literary fiction.  I decided to go ahead and lead with this book because so much of invisibility in pop culture is derived either from this novel or from Universal’s 1933 movie adaptation, which I’ll review tomorrow.

The Invisible Man was HG Wells’ fifth novel after such classics as The Time Machine and The Island of Dr Moreau. It was originally serialized in Pearson’s Weekly in 1897 but collected into a novel that same year.


Surprisingly, I had never read this book. I thought I would have been assigned it in high school or college, but that can also be said for several other classics I recently read for AWESOME-tober-fest like Frankenstein and Dracula.  Due to this I, again, have to thank AWESOME-tober-fest for manufacturing a reason for me to shoehorn this book into my reading list.  Let’s see if it was as good as Frankenstein or as bad as Dracula.

The book is certainly well written.  It begins with a mysteriously bandaged man arriving at a boarding house in the small English town of Iping.  The bandaged man not only looks mysterious, he is a very impatient man.  He immediately starts rubbing everyone the wrong way and eventually is kicked out of the boarding house when he can’t settle his bill.  This leads us to discover that he was a scientist who invented an invisibility serum and tested it on himself.  He was trying to work on a reversal serum when he arrived in Iping.

While down and out, he tries to rely on several people for help, but can’t seem to get it together.  All the while, he’s slowly going crazy from the chemicals he’s used on himself and fashions the idea that he’s going to take advantage of the invisibility and start a reign of terror to take over the country, starting with the citizens of Iping.  Will he succeed?


The story is very well told.  I like the “mysterious stranger” beginning of the novel (despite that the mystery is completely dissolved by the blatant title of the novel).  Seeing Griffin arrive, begin behaving strange and treat everyone so contemptuously is a very in your face way to start the novel.  And I like it.  Eventually, the events that precede the novel are discussed at length about two thirds of the way into the story and by then, you are ready and anxious to hear how Griffin got to where he was.  And HG Wells doesn’t disappoint with the “science-y” talk.  While much of it might be well sounding gibberish, it certainly sounds impressive to hear Wells explain the invisibility science through Griffin.  And there were several disadvantages to invisibility that Wells mentions that I didn’t expect to be brought up like not being able to sleep because you can see right through your eyelids, or that you can see food digesting in your stomach for an hour after you’ve eaten.  Even down to the weather like rain or snow collecting on your head and shoulders making you visible again.  Or dirt and mud collecting on your feet and fingernails also making you visible.  I had expected these things to have come out of later novels and movies, but not this original story.

Things I didn’t like.  The book seemed a little long.  It felt like Wells was padding out the pages a little.  Especially during the scenes where Griffin is discussing what he did before the beginning of the novel.  Some of that stuff is great, but it also felt a little too long.  And some of the side characters have crazy dialects.  It’s supposed to be English countryside dialect, and I can’t speak to the accuracy of that, but it’s damn near unreadable.

But those are small nitpicks, honestly.  I would recommend this book.  Is it as good as Shelley’s Frankenstein?  No, but it’s definitely a good, fun read and I’m happy to say not complete garbage like another classic monster book I know (looking at you Dracula).

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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: What Was It? A Mystery (1859) by Fitz-James O’brien

Posted in books, Classic literature, Genres, Halloween, holiday, horror, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , , , , on September 30, 2015 by Paxton

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And we are off! So, I had planned on beginning AWESOME-tober-fest 2015 on October 1, but I got excited and I’ve decided to start one day early. Today. So, enjoy everyone, my discussion of all things invisible man begins NOW.

Usually with any discussion of invisible men, ground zero is assumed to be HG Wells’ 1897 story, The Invisible Man. And yes, that is probably the most important work on invisibility to date. And yes, I am going to review that book (check back tomorrow). However, Wells’ story wasn’t the first to feature invisibility, or an invisible man.


In 1859 Harper’s Weekly published a short story by Fitz-James O’Brien titled What Was It? A Mystery.  O’Brien is considered to be one of the forerunners of science fiction.  And this particular short story is considered one of the earliest known uses of invisibility.  It predated HG Wells’ story by nearly 40 years.

I was doing research on invisibility for this month and discovered an anthology from the 70s that included stories about invisibility.  It was called Invisible Men and it’s edited by Basil Davenport.


I looked through the list of stories included. There is one from Wells himself, but not the titular Invisible Man.  It’s another story entitled The New Accelerator. O’Brien’s short story was also included. Doing a little more research I discovered the history behind O’Brien and this particular story and decided that I should give it a read.

It’s a very interesting and atmospheric story.  It’s based in an old apartment building and features several of the renters.  One of them is attacked by an unseen force one evening.  The unseen force is captured and tied to the bed.  The renters try to figure out what it is and even take a plaster cast of it.  But the invisible being dies before they can discover what it is.  That’s the long and short of it.

It’s structure is very similar to a lot of Lovecraft’s early stuff.  The story is told by a narrator from the present who is relating events that happened in the past.  The events are never really fully explained and it leaves you with an uneasy, creepy feeling.  Another similar story that comes to mind is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short and creepy The Ring of Thoth as well as Lovecraft’s Out of the Aeons.

And that is What Was It? A Mystery, one of the first uses of invisibility in literary fiction.  It was a fun and interesting read.  Especially to set the table for the movies and books to come this month.

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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015 begins TOMORROW!!

Posted in Halloween, holiday with tags , , , on September 29, 2015 by Paxton

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I was going to start AWESOME-tober-fest on October 1st, but I can’t wait so I’m starting ONE DAY EARLY.  As of right now the official start of AWESOME-tober-fest 2015 is Wednesday September 30.  And you should know I literally made this decision today.  A few hours ago, actually.  And as you can see I’ve changed the drapes and put out some of the spooky decorations.  I’m all set, ready to go!

What about my theme?  Well, as you can see from the banner, my theme this year will be the invisible man.  I’ll be talking about books, comics, movies, TV shows, cartoons, you name it, all featuring the invisible man.

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And, as a special treat, for the final week of AWESOME-tober-fest, I’ll be doing a “greatest hits” series of articles where I’ll revisit previous AWESOME-tober-fest themes with all new reviews and articles.  It should be a lot of fun.  Please come join me.

As usual, I’ll be a part of the Internet-wide Countdown to Halloween event. Click the banner below to see all the other blogs and sites that’ll be participating in this most awesome time of year.

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See you tomorrow!

Nerd Lunch Episode 198: Star Wars Episode II Drilldown

Posted in movies, podcast, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , on September 29, 2015 by Paxton

Nerd Lunch Podcast

Here we are, only two episodes away from the big Nerd Lunch 200th episode extravaganza. And I’m telling you right now, we literally have no idea what we’re doing for that. Hope it turns out.

Anyway, THIS week on Nerd Lunch, we are joined again by May and Kay to continue our series of Star Wars movie drilldowns. This time, we are looking at the second prequel movie, Attack of the Clones.


We all discuss our first time watching the movie, we really dig down deep to talk about what we liked about it and then we discuss the plethora of things we didn’t like.  Some of those things may not be the ones you’re expecting.  Come and check it out.  Along with our insightful commentary on the movie you’ll also get lots of audio issues, several of us forget simple words like panel and arena, and CT confesses his seething hatred for 50s diners.  All packed into this week’s episode!

Download this episode from iTunes, Stitcher or listen to it on Feedburner.

Or listen to it online right here.

Nerd Lunch Episode 194: Star Wars The Phantom Menace Drilldown

Posted in nostalgia, podcast, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , on September 1, 2015 by Paxton

Nerd Lunch Podcast

This week on Nerd Lunch we welcome back our Star Wars expert panelists Michael May and Geek Kay in order to begin discussing the Star Wars prequels. And we are starting, appropriately so, with The Phantom Menace.


We talk a bit about the lead up to Episode I, the first trailer in November 1998, Star Wars Celebration I in Denver in May 1999 as well as our thoughts watching the movie for the first time. We then go all over the place talking about things we liked and didn’t like with this movie. There’s some of each, folks, this isn’t just a hate fest on the movie.  Download this episode and join the discussion!

Download this episode from iTunes, Stitcher or listen to it on Feedburner.

Or listen to it online right here.

5 Classic cartoons that were ruined by the addition of a child character

Posted in cartoons, pop culture, TV shows with tags , , , , on August 25, 2015 by Paxton

This week on Nerd Lunch, episode 193, we are talking about things we think have gotten a bad rap. We discuss things like The Spice Girls, Star Trek Enterprise, the Keanu Reeves Constantine movie and the Robert Patrick character from X-Files.  We are joined by William Bruce West and Kirk Howle for a pretty good discussion.

During the fourth chair carryover question, we all discuss lists that we’d like to write. I mentioned that I had written a list about cartoons that I had sitting in my drafts for YEARS (it was originally written in 2012) that I wanted to get posted.  This is that list.

I love cartoons, but there was a rash of poor decisions by studios in the 80s wherein they added baby or child characters to their shows.  Here are five cartoons that were ruined by that practice.

Scooby-Doo (Scrappy) – Scrappy-Doo is the poster child for bad “youth” characters. He’s so universally hated that in the recent (and AWESOME) 2012 Scooby-Doo Mystery Inc series from Cartoon Network Scrappy shows up stuffed in an exhibit at the Mystery Museum featuring Scooby villains from the past. The Mystery gang promises each other that they’d never talk about it again. Bravo.  As we’ll see, Scrappy turned out, unfortunately, to be very popular and would create a trend in cartoons to add baby or child characters to popular cartoon shows.

Fangface (Baby Fang)I LOVED FANGFACE. Anytime you could get a cartoon featuring classic monsters, I was ALL IN (Drak Pack, Gravedale High, Teen Wolf, etc, etc).  However, in season 2, based on the apparent “success” of Scrappy-Doo, Fangface gets a baby nephew that is also a werewolf despite not making any sense based on the opening narration that states only one werewolf is born EVERY 400 YEARS.

The Plastic Man and Baby Plas Super Hour (Baby Plas) – The Ruby Spears Plastic Man cartoon is GREAT. I loved it. However, during the second season, Plas is saddled with Baby Plas. Usually these children are nephews, but Baby Plas was actually the result of Plastic Man and Penny marrying.  And then he was the cause of me hating the show.

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Captain Caveman (and Son) – Again I LOVE CAPT CAVEMAN.  My son loves Capt Caveman who appeared on an episode of that aforementioned 2012 Scooby Doo Mystery Inc show.  Like Plastic Man, Capt Caveman was given a son in the mid 80s when he appeared in segments of the much younger kid focused TV show, The Flintstone Kids.  This particular entry may be the worst after Scrappy.  I mean, Baby Plas is pretty awful, but Cavey Jr was a disaster.

Godzilla (Godzooky) – This is the only entry in the list where the child character actually started out on the show from the very beginning.  Godzooky is so bad that he even ruins the awesome Godzilla cartoon intro as soon as he shows up.


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