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By an icy and snowy winter, a foreigner finds refuge in a room of the Lion Inn in the small village of Iping. This man, whose face is camouflaged by strips such as a mummy, is in fact Jack Griffin, a chemist who has just bored the mystery of invisibility.
Having tried the experiment on himself, Griffin now wishes to find rest far away in order to study a formula which will enable him to become visible again. Jack Griffin is persuaded that it is possible to reverse the formula.
Griffin seeks to become visible again
But his experiments do not succeed and Griffin becomes irascible and angry. At the end of the week, not seeing any money for the room, the owners decide to expel him. Griffin wounds the owner who calls the police. This one arrives quiclky. Insane of rage, tired, irritated and with end of nerve, Griffin removes his strips and reveals his true face. Initially surprised, the police officer helped by some men tries to capture him. Griffin finishes to undress to become completely invisible. The news of the existence of an invisible man spreads like a powder trail.
The news arrives to the ears of Doctor Kemp and Cranley. This last knows Griffin well since he is his laboratory's assistant and the boyfriend of his daughter Flora. With the search for evidence on his researches, Kemp discovers that Jack used monocaïne for his experiments, a terrible drug which fades everything. His suspicions prove to be founded when Griffin comes to visit him. But the effects of the monocaïne seems to have harmful effects on his brain. This one becomes insane and dreams to conquer the world thanks to his new capacity. Threatening, he forces Kemp to become his aide-de-camp.
Griffin forces Kemp to become his aide-de-camp
Griffin obliges Kemp to accompany him to Lion Inn in order to recover the notes it left in his room. There, he benefits from it to sow zizanie among the people questioned by the police chief about the event that has just occurred. But the madness of Griffin pushes this one to murder and he kills a policeman. An immense beaten is organized.
Back, Kemp calls Cranley and his daughter discreetly so that he tries to reason the assistant. But his attempt will remain vein. Griffin's brain is not normal any more and his megalomania is strongest. At this time the police arrives that Kemp also prevented. Griffin escapes them after having sworn to Kemp that he will kill him the following day at 10...
Flora tries to convince her friend
Spoiler ! the end of the story is revealed below…
After several misdeeds causing the death of innocent, a hundred and thousand men put themselves in the search of the invisible man. The police sets up a plan to apprehend him using Kemp as soft food. But Griffin does not fall into the trap, and, despite all precautions of the police, he will manage to execute his ultimatum.
The steps in the snow will betray Griffin
Later, Griffin is finally located in a barn in which he tries to find rest. The police officer puts fire at the barn to oblige him to leave his hiding-place. The steps he leaves in the snow are fatal to him. Griffin is shot down and taken to the hospital where he dies. Effects of drug dispersing, the body of the laboratory asssistant becomes little by little visible again.
There the director of Frankenstein delivers us a new combination of horror and fascination. The invisible man is the first genuine film drawn from the work of H.G. Wells. James Whale treated this work in true tragedy. Griffin is a murderer that only death can stop.
It is this role of the invisible man, where paradoxically we can see his face just at the end of the film, that launched the cinematographic career of Claude Rains. A role that had been proposed beforehand to Boris Karloff (Frankenstein).