Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Invisible Man, The [1933]

US movie (1933). Universal. Pr Carl Laemmle Jr. Dir James Whale. Spfx John P Fulton. Screenplay R C Sherriff, Philip Wylie (uncredited). Based on The Invisible Man (1897) by H G Wells. Starring William Harrigan (Dr Kemp), Forrester Harvey (Herbert Hall), Holmes Herbert (Police Chief), Una O'Connor (Jenny Hall), Claude Rains (Jack Griffin, the Invisible Man), Gloria Stuart (Flora Cranley), Henry Travers (Dr Cranley). 71 mins. B/w.

Wells's novel done as a blackly comic Technofantasy. Scientist Griffin discovers the secret of Invisibility using a derivative from an oriental plant that has weird bleaching properties; he is unaware that the drug is known also to cause madness. At first he tries to discover an antidote but then, becoming megalomaniac, he embarks on mass murder, planning to hold the world to ransom. At last he is discovered when a farmer hears him sleeping in the barn, and his footprints in snow allow police to shoot him. As he dies in hospital, his visibility returns.

Bizarrely, for he appears for only seconds and then as a corpse, this debut made Rains an international star. The script is quite witty; the setting is a quaint US vision of England – with draft rye and whiskey (complete with "e") on sale in a pub, and with the village constabulary being signed "Police Dept". Laemmle's successful productions around this time included Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931), so he was mining a rich seam – as was James Whale.

TIM inspired various sequels, remakes and other derived movies: The Invisible Man Returns (1940), The Invisible Woman (1940), Invisible Agent (1942), The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944), Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), The Invisible Man (1958 Mexico), The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966) – which is rather distanced from Wells's initial notion – The Invisible Man (1975 tvm), The Invisible Kid (1988) and Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992). [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.