Why "The Invisible Man" is Still Relevant
Released in 1933, The Invisible Man (1933) was the first adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel The Invisible Man. Within the horror film genre, it is considered to be one of the key classic films that paved the way for other horror films to come. However, with the film being released almost ninety years ago, some may wonder how it’s still relevant and why it is still loved. Horror films reflect the fears and worries of society during the time it was released and this is no different for The Invisible Man, however, there is a rare exception for this film, that it can be applied to modern fears and worries almost a hundred years later. This article will analyze how The Invisible Man still reflects society’s fears, and why it’s still relevant today.
When The Invisible Man was released in 1933, it was an instant hit. With the groundbreaking visual effects and Claude Rains premiering in his first American role, it seems understandable that audiences would love the film. Based on H.G. Wells’ science fiction novel with the same name, Dr. Jack Griffin, also known as the invisible man, discovers the secret of invisibility and forms it into a pill which he takes in the film. Unfortunately for Dr. Griffin, the pill also drives him to insanity, and causes him to wreck havoc on a small British village, eventually committing murder. There are quite a few similarities of this story shared with the novella Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, however, there are some themes that make The Invisible Man stand apart from this story. It lacks the Gothic themes of previous horror films during this time, which is also a large part of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Of course, The Invisible Man offers its own sense of uneasiness and violence that is not depicted in the original novel, but highlighted in this first adaptation.
One of the main themes presented to audiences in the film, The Invisible Man is that of lies and deceit. It can be seen symbolically through Dr. Griffin’s literal invisibility, as well as his distrust in authority. Audiences experience the deceitful nature of Dr. Griffin first hand as he becomes consumed with madness, eventually committing anti-authoritarian murders. The film is really about overcoming these deceptions and illusions that Dr. Griffin is consumed by, to reach the difficult truth, which is that Dr. Griffin, while literally invisible to those around him, is also emotionally invisible. Different from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, where the main character battles with himself due to his nature and duality, Dr. Griffin struggles with his own self perception, which he projects onto others around him.
This concept in the age of social media is extremely important and relevant as many young people struggle with how they see themselves, and present themselves to those around them. Social stigma of gender roles are at an all time high in today’s society due to social media placing unrealistic expectations of men and women onto the youth. With Dr. Griffin’s personal struggle of self-perception and worth, it seems reasonable that younger audiences in today’s society would relate to his struggles. Also, with a record amount of individuals coming out as homosexual or a part of the LGBTQ+ community, Dr. Griffin’s deceitful nature of hiding who he really is can also be reflected in today’s society, making it extremely relevant even today.
Another important aspect of the film The Invisible Man, is that of a corrupt authority oppressing an individual, in this case, Dr. Griffin. With Dr. Griffin already struggling with his self perception and self worth, the oppressing nature of authority throughout the film emphasizes his insanity and madness, driving him to act against this authority with murder. The political ideology highlighted not only in the novel but the film as well is a rejection of all ideologies as they take away from the individual’s sense of self and force a sense of community on them.
While the novel goes more in depth into this idea, the film touches on it, leaving more room for interpretation. In today’s society, with constant fears of corruption, oppression, and political instability, this is arguably the most important aspect of the story overall. It allows audiences today to realize that one can reject the norm of politics and uprise against oppressive authorities.
Overall, The Invisible Man, despite being almost a hundred years old, provides a unique outlet for the youth population in the United States and western society. It remains a horror classic due to its incorporation of common themes of feeling inadequate and not quite yourself. The visual effects are still outstanding relative to its release date and Rains’ performance of Dr. Griffin’s descent into madness is amazing. For all these reasons, The Invisible Man remains one of Universal Studios’ most popular horror films of all time.
The Invisible Man (1958) Official Trailer