Next month sees the release of The Invisible Man, a very modern retelling of H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel – in which scientist Griffin is turned invisible – and sees Elisabeth Moss play a woman convinced that her partner’s suicide may not be all it appears.
Produced by horror supremo Jason Blum, this latest version of the story follows a long line of movie, TV and even stage adaptions.
In addition to the screen, the character of Griffin has popped up in a host of other media including a National Public Radio adaption, a full-cast audio drama starring John Hurt, various comics, via NetEnt casino, which lists free spin and video slot games based on film and TV franchises, we learn there’s also a video slot game based on the character, and there’s been at least two PC and Mac video games.
Here’s a rundown of some of the most notable ventures to feature invisible protagonists:
Universal’s 1933 adaptation of the book is possibly both the most famous and successful and was widely acclaimed for its special effects – which used a combination of wires, time fades and the filming of star Claude Rains against a black velvet background while he was wearing a suit of the same material – to bring the title character to life.
One of Universal’s most commercially successful horror films, the movie spawned a run of sequels including The Invisible Man Returns (1940) The Invisible Woman (1940), Invisible Agent (1942) and The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944), plus Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951).
1975 saw the arrival of a weekly The Invisible Man TV series created by Harve Bennet (who also produced The Six Million Dollar Man and who would later oversee the Kirk era Star Trek movies starting with The Wrath of Khan) and starring David McCallum.
In the pilot episode Dr. Daniel Westin (McCallum) is a researcher who renders himself invisible and destroys the equipment which makes it possible when he discovers his employer’s plan to hand his invention over to the military.
However in the series the premise is tweaked and he carries out missions for the government while trying to make himself visible again.
The series was axed after a single season but the network replaced it the following year with Gemini Man which stared Ben Murphy as agent Sam Casey who becomes invisible after being exposed to radiation. It too only lasted one season.
Almost a decade later the BBC produced its own The Invisible Man series starring Pip Donaghy in the title role.
This 1984 series aired as part of a strand of classic novel adaptations and while less well known than many screen versions of the tale, is the most faithful to the original Wells novel.
Based on H. F. Saint’s novel of the same name, rather than the Wells novel, Chevy Chase’s 1992 Memoirs of an Invisible Man follows the story of an analyst who is hunted by the CIA after being accidentally turned invisible.
The film had a pretty troubled birth due to creative differences between scriptwriter William Goldman and Chase, it also lost at least two directors (Ivan Reitman and Richard Donner) before John Carpenter joined the project.
The end result was a disappointing movie which at times is unsure whether it’s a comedy or a serious exploration of the characters and which ultimately fails to entertain.
Unsurprisingly the film flopped at the box office, although its source novel enjoyed more success and earned Saint an impressive $2.5m for the book club and screen rights, allowing him to retire after writing a single novel.
As mentioned above, The Invisible Man has enjoyed life away from the movies and TV including several video games such the mid-2000’s object based game from Big Fish in which Griffin’s girlfriend must try and locate the apparently missing invisible scientist.
The character also appeared in the 1997 adventure game Hollywood Monsters alongside other famous screen monsters such as Dracula, Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s monster.
Acclaimed actor Sir John Hurt starred as Griffin in a full-cast audio version of the original book which formed part of Big Finish’s ‘Classics’ range. Released shortly after the actor’s death in 2017, the play was well received by reviewers.
Universal’s The Invisible Man will be released in UK cinemas on 28th February 2020.