Invisible Wells Classic

DATELINE: Whale of a Film


When James Whale chose to do his next amusing gothic horror, it turned out to be H.G. Wells’ story about a mad scientist who becomes invisible. It has now become a trite metaphor, but this is the original—and therein hangs some fascination. The Invisible Man came out in 1933.

To play a man who won’t be seen for most of the film, Whale chose Claude Rains whose voice manages to carry his performance. And Jack Pierce’s makeup is the notion of a wig, fake nose, dark glasses, and a bandaged mummy wrap to hide the lack of face.

Rains would go on to become one of the most familiar of second-banana stars—stealing movies like Casablanca in every scene they gave him.

For a film made in the early 1930s, the delightful special effects of invisibility set a standard that today still cannot be achieved. There is something in the primitive, expressionistic style that gives the unwrapping of Rains to scare the locals with such hilarious and horrific power.

As Dr. Jack Griffin, Rains gives a couple of classic homicidal maniac speeches about murdering people for the good of science, while his lovely girlfriend Gloria Stuart (of Titanic fame about 60 years later) frets about. Whale nixed Rains as Dr. Praetorius in the Bride of Frankenstein because of on-set difficulties between them.

Henry Travers is the dutiful sober-sided scientist. Best known as Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life, he is less befuddled here. As the loud, half-crazed tavern owner, there is Una O’Connor, shrieking whenever there is a chance.

We also saw Oscar-winner Walter Brennan in one of his earliest roles as the man with the bicycle. He does a wonderful low-brow Brit accent. Also there is John Carradine, father of Keith and David, as a minor character on the telephone.

Alas, Whale was saddled with many American actors whose regionalisms are completely out of place in a small English town. The village boys are decidedly American in tone.

Whales frequently films shorty Rains from the knees looking upward, giving him a frightful height, and the sets are spectacular and sumptuous, a sign that the budgets had improved for the director of Frankenstein.


Whatever its shortcomings, this remains an impressive achievement in cinema history.



Bill Belichick Stars as Captain Renault in Casablanca!

DATELINE: Rounding Up Twice the Usual Shock


Starring Bill Belichick as Claude Rains

If you felt like you were watching a bad remake of the Humphrey Bogart classic, Casablanca, you were not alone.

The Bill Belichick press conference about Deflategate seemed to be re-enacting one of the more famous scenes of the movie.

The gendarmes crash into Rick’s Place for a raid. Whistles blow and everyone scrambles.

Bogart demands to know what is going on from the Prefect of police, Captain Renault. As played by the slick Claude Rains, his expression is purely feigned innocence.

Captain Renault barks out, “I am shocked, shocked, shocked, to hear there is gambling going on in this establishment.”

Rick storms away in fury, and one of the croupiers runs up to Captain Renault and hands him his winnings, which he promptly stuffs into his pocket. “Oh, thank you.”

Bill Belichick gave his press conference and noted duly with a straight face, “I am shocked, shocked, shocked to hear that footballs were under-inflated.” The first he heard of this was Monday morning when he came into his office at 4am.

Belichick had never in his life ever discussed the psi of footballs with anyone. In fact, he simply plays the game with the equipment given him at game time.

He never questions the inflation of the balls, the atmospheric pressure of the stadium, or the meteorologist’s forecast of the game.

Yes, indeed, we are shocked, shocked, shocked!