top of page
Podcast logo of black retro UFO on a red background with the text Every Single Sci-Fi Film Ever*. *Almost.

9. The Invisible Man Exposed

As with all episodes of this podcast there are spoilers ahead!

I would love for you to join in by watching The Invisible Man here.

When HG Wells wrote The Invisible Man in 1897 the world was in a world in which the telephone, the phonograph and even the radio brought the idea of disembodied voices to an increasing number of people. In the 1933 film, director James Whale (who also directed Frankenstein) imbues the film with themes of mass communication more relevant to an age of radio broadcasts and newsreels.

The film feels more like a comedy than a horror but was a great success with the special effects impressing moviegoers and critics. This week’s wonderful experts break down the themes and history of the film.

The Experts
Keith Williams is a Reader in English at the University of Dundee with a special interest in the pre 1945 period and HG Wells. He is the author of the book H.G. Wells, Modernity and the Movies.

Marc Longenecker is an Associate Professor of the Practice of Film Studies at Wesleyan University and wrote an article titled A Brief History of Invisibility on Screen.

00:00 Introduction
01:35 Invisibility on film and by HG Wells
10:28 Humour, satire and prejudice
14:26 A man walks into a pub
15:28 Rags to riches: Whale, Wells and Rains
20:12 The invisible actor
22:02 Phonographs, radio and Hitler
27:18 War of the Worlds (1938 radio drama)
29:58 The special effects
35:37 HG Wells Vs the movies
39:27 Things to Come (1936)
46:42 Legacy
49:08 Conclusion
51:32 Recommendations

The shownotes

  • The Invisible Man novel was published in 1897. It was first serialised in Pearson’s Weekly. You can find issues of the weeky paper at this wonderful resource but you can only view three pages for free before having to subscribe.

  • Marc is at Wesleyan University. I mispronounce it. Researching Wells, Welles and Whale has influenced my speech patterns. 

  • Marc wrote the article in 2020 around the time The Invisible Man, directed by Leigh Wannell directed and starring Elisabeth Moss was released.

  • The Invisible Thief/ Le Voleur Invisible (1909) by Segundo de Chamón and Ferdinand Zecca can be viewed here.

  • The Unknown Purple is a lost silent film made in 1923 by Roland West. A director known for his proto-film noir style. He was a suspect in the death of his mistress: actress Thelma Todd. You can learn more about her death here.

  • An Invisible Man Walks the City/ Ein Unsichtbarer geht durch die Stadt (1933) is a German Film directed by actor Harry Piel. It was relased a few months before Whale’s The Invisible Man. It can be watched in German on YouTube here or on Amazon Prime.

  • The Republic was written by the ancient greek philosopher Plato around 375 BC. You can learn more about it here.

  • I could not find much information about the Indian film Mr X (1938). It was directed by Dwarka Khosla and the very sparse IMDB page is here. You can find a poster of the film on this post.

  • Mr India (1987) may be one of the most memorable Bollywood films about invisibility and was a big hit. Directed by Shekhar Kapur and starring Anil Kapoor and Sridevi.

  • IMDB pages for the The Invisible Man Returns (1940) and The Invisible Agent (1942).

  • The Murderer Invisible by Philip Wylie was first published in 1931.

  • The James Curtis biography James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters is very highly rated and the basis of the film Gods and Monsters (1998) which stars Ian McKellen.

  • Bride of Frankenstein by James Whale can be viewed here.

  • The Old Dark House (1932) by James Whale can be viewed here.

  • The An American Werewolf in London (1981) is directed by John Landis and the IMDB page is here.

  • After The Invisible Man (1933) Claude Rains had a long and successful Hollywood career. His IMDB page can be found here.

  • You can learn more about Hitler’s dog Blondi from her Wikipedia page.

  • The 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds can be heard here. There is an overview of the phenomena here. In 1978 producer and composer Jeff Wayne made a musical version of HG wells novel which features Richard Burton’s voice. You can hear a part of it here.

  • You can find John P Fulton’s IMDB page here.

  • Fritz Lang moves to the US in 1934. The story is that Nazi chief propagandist Joseph Goebbels asked Lang (whose mother was Jewish) to become a leading Nazi film director. You can learn more about Lang and his sci-fi masterpiece Metropolis (1927) in episode 5 of the podcast here.

  • You can watch Things to Come (1936) here.

  • William Cameron Menzies' IMDB page can be found here.

  • The Invisible Woman (1940) can be watched here.

  • You can find more details of Universal's classic monsters here.

  • Hollow Man (2000) by Paul Verhoeven and stars Kevin Bacon. The IMDB page is here.

  • Keith’s recommendation is Stella by CH Hinton. You can find the story in a book called Scientific Romances here


No film to watch for next episode as we will be discussing the development of early pulp fiction magazines and comics and their relationship to science fiction. You can start catching up with the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers film serials of the 1930s as I am working on an episode based on them.  You can check JustWatch to see where you can access them.


You can also watch them on YouTube. There are also some colourised versions. There were three Flash Gordon serials and one Buck Rogers serial

Flash Gordon (1936)

Flash Gordon (1936. Colourised.)

Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938)

Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)

Buck Rogers (1939)

bottom of page