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August 24, 2011

‘The Invisible Man’: Universal sets sights on remake

Posted in: Movies

James Whale directed the 1933 film between two horror classics -- "Frankenstein" in 1931 and "The Bride of Frankenstein" in 1935.

The success of the 1933 film led to a barrage of follow-up ventures, among them "The Invisible Man Returns" (1940), "The Invisible Woman" (1940), "Invisible Agent" (1942) and the hit spoof film "Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man." (1951)

A British television series in the late 1950s added an espionage twist to the original concept and a hero who was permanently invisible.

Jeff Lemire's graphic novel "The Nobody" (2009) is a smart and unsettling version of the classic tale with a modern-day drifter in the bandages. (Vertigo)

Chevy Chase and Daryl Hannah starred in John Carpenter's 1992 film "Memoirs of an Invisible Man" based on the 1987 namesake novel by H.F. Saint.

The Invisible Man was memorably used by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill in "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," a comic series set in Victorian England that led to a Hollywood film of the same title. (Wildstorm/DC Comics)

Paul Verhoeven directed the 2000 film "Hollow Man" that starred Elisabeth Shue and Kevin Bacon. (Columbia Pictures)

Vincent Ventresca starred in 46 episodes of the Sci Fi Channel series "The Invisible Man," which offered a modern-day buddy cop twist on the concept.

"The Invisible Man" (1933) was the breakthrough role for Claude Rains, who impressed director James Whale with his stately speaking voice. Boris Karloff was the first choice for the job. (Los Angeles Times archives)

Hollywood is taking another look at “The Invisible Man.”  The see-through scientist was introduced by H.G. Wells way back in 1897 but a feature film now in the works would broaden the mythology and reach for an aesthetic closer to Guy Ritchie’s action-packed “Sherlock Holmes” franchise and the effects spectacle of “The Mummy” franchise, according to writer-director David S. Goyer.

“It’s a period film but it’s period like Downey’s ‘Sherlock Holmes,’” said Goyer, whose writing credits include “The Dark Knight” and the upcoming “Man of Steel” project that will put Superman back on the big screen. “It’s period but  it’s a reinvention of the character in the sort of way that Stephen Sommers exploded ‘The Mummy’ into a much bigger kind of mythology. That’s kind of what we’ve done with ‘The Invisible Man.’”

David Goyer (Bryan Chan/Los Angeles Times)

The Invisible Man — be it the actual classic character or the latest newcomer using the nickname  – is a persistent presence in popular fiction, and the image of a mystery man swathed in bandages is hard to resist for writers and filmmakers. You can check out the photo gallery above to revisit a few of the different transparent men of adventure who have popped up through the decades.

The character made silver-screen history in 1933 when star Claude Rains and director James Whale added “The Invisible Man” to the Universal Pictures vault of horror films that would also include Dracula, the Mummy, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man. Universal has tried to resurrect those memorable monsters with mixed results. “The Mummy,” directed by Sommers and released in 1999, racked up $416 million in worldwide box office and yielded a 2001 sequel as well as the 2002 spinoff “The Scorpion King.”

The full-moon fantasies of “Van Helsing” and “The Wolf Man” were painful commercial failures, however, and some Hollywood observers have wondered whether “The Invisible Man” would actually see the light of day. But Goyer, at work on the set of “Man of Steel,” said Wednesday that the project is very much in play.

“It’s something slowly working its way through the Universal development channels,” he said. “It’s still alive.”  Goyer added that the studio was pleased by some preview work that gave a sense of how some key visual moments would be achieved on screen:  “We did some pre-vis tests and things like that that they were very happy with. Now we’re going through the casting process. if they get the right lead, they’ll make it.”

– Geoff Boucher


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