Recreating the wild success of Frankenstein was never going to be easy and adapting H.G. Well’s bizarre and disturbing novel might have become a fiasco if any other director had attempted it – after all the star couldn’t be seen for most of the movie…
Both James Whale and Boris Karloff stepped away from the whole project initially, both worried that they would become typecast in the horror genre, and that it would be a ridiculous flop. By the time that James Whale was convinced to take the movie on, Karloff had become involved in other projects. Colin Clive, star of Frankenstein, was considered for the role, but Whale decided for Claude Rains, who he had seen a single screen test for in connection with a different production. Rains, who was a stage actor, had very little idea of what was going to happen, and James Whale made a point of not telling him, so that he would as much as possible simply be himself in the role.
In James Whale’s hands with Rains in the lead, The Invisble Man became the box office hit of 1933 and played to packed houses throughout the world. The special effects – all made without CGI technology or green screens – were groundbreaking experiments in film making. Even today many of them leave audiences scratching their heads wondering exactly how Whale’s special effects man John P Fulton manages to fool them so convincingly.
Above all the movie is true to the character of the novel – a man whose scientific brilliance is his own downfall, made mad by his own experiments. H.G.Wells himself – a scathing critic of attempts to film his novels of which there were many -actually liked the movie (even in spite of the fact that Hollywood wrote a love interest – in the form of Gloria Stewart – into the script because..well movies have to have a love interest don’t they…? Trivia: Did you know that 64 years later Gloria Stewart played Old Rose in the James Cameron Titanic movie?)
Despite the outrageous success of the film and being hailed as the undisputed master of the science-fiction horror, James Whale began to feel a little as though he couldn’t escape the shadow of the horror genre and tried to escape it with drama productions like ‘By Candelight’ and ‘One more river’, but only two years later in 1935 he was back with his biggest horror success to date ‘Bride of Frankenstein’.
The James Whale Orchestra soundtrack is score for solo string quartet plus a large sample orchestra.