Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Frankenstein (1910)

Someone uploaded a full version of Edison Lab's 1910 version of Frankenstein to Youtube:

Some interesting things about this film:
1. It was the first film version of the Frankenstein story.
2. None of the actors were originally credited because the role of the actor wasn't considered important back then. Neither was anyone else involved in production. But Edison made damn sure his name was on it, despite having nothing to do with it's creation. (Typical Edison)
3. It took 3 days to film and lasted over ten minuets when most movies were only two or three.
4. It was long thought to be lost until a full copy (complete with tints!) turned up in the 1970s in the hands of a collector. The guy had bought it in the 50s and had no idea how rare it was.
5. Bela Lugosi was originally cast as the monster in the 1931 version but was replaced by Boris Karloff after several awful makeup tests. Surviving pictures show that he was made up to look like the monster from this version. Lugosi would later play the part in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.

Some thoughts on the film:
1. The monster being created by chemicals and wizard potions is a bit odd. I suppose being able to create fake body parts would be a few years down the road. Everyone knows that wizards are the answer to everything anyways.
2. Neat early special effects! All they did was set a dummy on fire and ran the film backwards but it still looks pretty cool.
3. I really like the way they set the mirror up you could see who was coming in the room. It's a nice way to get around the limitations of having a static one camera set-up.
4. A couple going to bed on their wedding night? Possibly implied rape? The Hay's Office wouldn't have had any of that!
5. More neat mirror effects with the monster vanishing while his reflection stays put.
6. And the first Frankenstein monster on film is defeated Possibly. Or it could just be that he never existed in the first place. Here's what Wikipedia says (from the Edison Kinetogram):
"When Frankenstein's love for his bride shall have attained full strength and freedom from impurity it will have such an effect upon his mind that the monster cannot exist."
So he was destroyed by love. But does that also mean that the monster was all in it's creator's mind? I think the monster is supposed to be the bad part of Frankenstein's nature. Sort of Jeckel and Hyde-ish. What do you guys think?

Final thoughts:
I'm really glad that a copy of this still exists and that anyone that wants to can watch and study it.
Do you think people at the time were frightened by the creature? I'm guessing they must have been since they probably hadn't seen much like it yet in the moving picture world. 100 year old nightmare fuel for the win!
Horror films wouldn't start to get really good until the German Expressionist films of the 1920s, but this is a fascinating look at the ground work for everything that would come after.
Now if only a copy of The Werewolf from 1913 still existed...check your grandparent's attics and barns!

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