What’s behind the mask?: Let’s unwrap the lengthy cinematic history of the Invisible Man

By on April 12, 2019

In the slightly NSFW Invisible: The Chronicles of Benjamin Knight (1993) — filmed in Bucharest, Romania — the title character (Michael Della Femina) is rendered invisible during a gruesome laboratory accident.

Watch this straight-to-DVD Full Moon title tonight on Night Flight Plus, and read more about the lengthy cinematic history of the Invisible Man below.

INVISIBLEMAN17

In Invisible, Knight’s scientist pals — including “Dr. Zanna Zimmer” (the lovely Jennifer Nash) and wheelchair-bound “Wade” (Brian Cousins), who controls the robot “Mandroid” — are working on a formula which will end Ben’s transparent existence.

Invisible is considered a sequel to Mandroid, which you can read more about here.

INVISIBLEMAN18

Later on, Dr. Zimmer discovers that the previously-presumed dead “Dr. Drago” (Curt Lowens) is very much alive, although he’s become a horribly-disfigured madman who wants to get his hands on their “Super-con” serum.

Drago’s transforming the local village idiots into deranged lunatics who kidnap local village women for him, turning them half-naked slave girls who dance on food-heaped tables (that can’t be too sanitary).

INVISIBLEMAN13

It also turns out that Dr. Drago is in cahoots with the local police chief, “Colonel Petroff” (the late Aharon Ipalé).

Alan Oppenheimer — memorable as the head IT tech in the 1973 cult classic Westworld, among other roles — plays “Dr. Knox.”

INVISIBLEMAN15

Read more about other Invisible Man movies below.

IDevices-For-NF-web

Hey! Do you have a Night Flight Plus subscription?

We’re offering up original uncut air masters of Night Flight programming from the video vaults of the 1980s TV show, as well as provocative new selections from the world of music, documentaries, animation, cult films and more. Sign up today!



INVISIBLEMAN2

Stories about invisibility have probably been around since Plato’s Republic, where ghosts and poltergeists wandered around unseen by humans.

Even J.R.R. Tolkien had Dumbledore give Harry Potter an invisibility cloak as a Christmas gift (that’s a lot cooler than an Amazon gift card!).

INVISIBLEMAN3

Most movies about invisibility are, of course, based on The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance, the 1897 sci-fi novel by H.G. Wells.

They’ve also been inspired by the original black & white adaptation The Invisible Man, directed by James Whale in 1933.

Claude Rains stars as “Dr. Jack Griffin,” a scientist who creates the invisibility formula and then turns into a sociopath after sampling the serum.

INVISIBLEMAN9

Invisible certainly won’t be the last movie to feature an Invisible Man character.

In fact, it was preceded by The Invisible Maniac (1990) and Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), and then followed a few years later by Invisible Mom II (1999) and Paul Verhoeven’s Hollow Man (2000).

INVISIBLEMAN19

In director David J. Skal’s 35-minute documentary, Now You See Him: The Invisible Man Revealed, we learn Invisible Man films have been popular for decades because they are “covertly about nudity.”

Even if they aren’t shown any naughtiness, voyeuristic audiences have always enjoyed watching invisible characters taking a shower (as Virginia Bruce did in 1940’s The Invisible Woman).

In Henry’s Night (1969), an invisible Henry also watches not-naked girls taking showers.

INVISIBLEMAN11

Invisibility has also been played for naughty naked peek-a-book laughs in The Man Who Wasn’t There (1983), School Spirit (1985) and The Invisible Kid (1988).

The ultimate naughty invisible man movie is 2003’s X-rated adult film, The Erotic Misadventures of the Invisible Man, where an aspiring actor performs sex acts that Claude Rains certainly wasn’t allowed to do 70 years earlier.

INVISIBLEMAN10

In the 1970s, there were sleazy, schlocky films like Invisible Strangler (1978), where Robert Foxworth plays the title character who kills women while invisible.

The Japanese film Lusty Transparent Man (透明人間 犯せ, 1978) showed us an invisible pervert spying in women’s bathhouses and raping female students, and let’s not forget the creepy French film Dr. Orloff’s Invisible Monster (La Vie Amoureuse de L’homme Invisible, 1970).

INVISIBLEMAN8

For most of the 70s, though, invisibility was mainly seen as a vehicle for harmless fun.

That’s the way you see invisibility being used in the plots of family-friendly Disney films like Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972), starring Kurt Russell, and in L’inafferrabile invincibile Mr. Invisible (Mr. Superinvisible, 1970), starring Dean Jones.

INVISIBLEMAN7

This was actually a continuation of how invisibility was seen in The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966), the last of the AIP beach party films.

Susan Hart plays the sexy blonde be-wigged ghost in an invisible bikini, and Boris Karloff is the recently-dead “Mr. Hiram Stokeley.”

The funny folks at “Mystery Science Theater 3000″ made fun of The Amazing Transparent Man (1960), about an invisible safecracker.

The Mexican import El Asesino Invisible (Neutrón Traps the Invisible Killers) was a low-budget campfest featuring a mask-wearing Luchador superhero called “El Enmascarado do Oro” (“The Gold-Masked Man”).

INVISIBLEMAN6

Prior to the 1960s, the Invisible Man appears in a vast array of Hollywood films, many of which are memorable and worth seeking out.

In the 1950s, you could have watched Invisible Invaders (1959), The Invisible Boy (1957), or the comedy romp Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951).

INVISIBLEMAN4

Going back to the 1940s, check out Universal’s sequel The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944), or The Invisible Agent (1942), a propaganda war film, where invisibility is used to fight the Nazis, or Invisible Ghost (a Bela Lugosi scarefest from 1941), and two from 1940, The Invisible Man Returns, which was Vincent Price’s first film role, and the aforementioned screwball comedy The Invisible Woman, starring Virginia Bruce as a fashion model named “Kitty.”

We’re sure we’ve missed a few too, and let us know your favorite if you’d like to leave a comment.

INVISIBLEMAN12

After a nearly two-decade long drought without a new Invisible Man movie, Universal recently announced they were going into production in May 2019 on a new The Invisible Man with writer/director Leigh Whannell.

Actors Armie Hammer And Alexander Skarsgård are both being eyed for the lead role of “Adrian Griffin,” a billionaire sociopath who has developed an invisibility suit for the Dept. of Defense.

INVISIBLEMAN5

Watch Invisible: The Chronicles of Benjamin Knight on Night Flight Plus.

INVISIBLEMAN1

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.