Frankenstein – the 1910 motion picture

Halloween is coming, so this week I thought I’d share some great bits of old film that fit into the Halloween theme. These are amazing pieces of our cultural history, many sadly forgotten. We’ll start with a 1910’s Frankenstein.

Produced by Edison studios (though Edison himself had nothing to do with it), this adaptation of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein was long thought lost. For decades, only a few stills existed. In the 1970s, it was discovered in a private collection, where it had sat since the 1950s, the owner unaware of just how rare the film was.

Though it had been released to DVD earlier, the print was only fully restored and released back in March 2010. The film is in the public domain. Here it is, at a mere 13 minutes long (first minute or so is rough, quality is good after that):

A few interesting things to note:

* The presentation is pure stage show. This is five years before the landmark Birth of a Nation, which all but invented the language of film as we now know it. Prior to that, movies were essentially stage shows on film.

* The color seen above is accurate. We think of early films as being in black and white, but in fact, during the silent era color tinting was common. The awesome Dracula adaptation, Nosferatu, filmed in 1922, is particularly effective at using tinting to enhance the mood and tone of certain scenes.

* At around 7 minutes, check out the way the shot is set up with the mirror. Very creative for its time!

* Charles Ogle, the man who plays the monster, was the son of a fundamentalist minister. His father disowned him for playing the role of a godless creature. He became an accomplished silent film actor, appearing in over 300 productions between 1908 and 1926.

* The director, J. Searle Dawley, did several other adaptations, including one of Snow White that predated Disney’s by 21 years!

* In 2003, it was adapted into a 40-page graphic novel called Edison’s Frankenstein 1910.

2 Comments

  1. Ian Sokoliwski

    I do love this film. I grabbed a copy of it around a year ago and happily added it to my Frankencollection 🙂

  2. M.T. Carpenter, Sr.

    I like how the monster was "created". Just a tad long, but pretty fun.

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