Thursday, October 11, 2012


Tonight on THE GOODS continuing Countdown to Halloween’s Monster-Month, we give pause to Edison Studios’ 1910 very brief adaptation of Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN and the Monster as he first appeared on film.

With large gnarled hands shaped like claws, oversized feet, a body wrapped in rags and a wild head of hair that would make Robert Smith envious, Edison Studios’ visualization of the Monster is a creepy one.  Sticking out from that corona of wiry hair, the Monster’s face is a pale and distorted thing.  A questioning look frozen on the ghostly visage, it follows the Doctor, haunting him with it’s very existence.

It’s kind of like watching a foal taking it’s first steps, watching EDISON’S FRANKENSTEIN.  Being the very dawn of a genre, it really is an excercise in measured, moderate success.  It is not only the dawn of a genre on film, it’s the dawn of film itself, when the technology for better capturing motion pictures is changing from day to day and companies are scrambling to be the first, best, fastest at every aspect of the medium.

Odd, then, that Edison took steps to restrain his own filmmakers’ creativity by creating the first Board of Censors, consisting of film executives and religious and educational leaders.  It seems, it was part of his effort to appease moral crusaders and reform groups and keep the decision making in the hands of his own people.

The Edison Kinetogram, the catalog that Edison Studios would send to distributors to hype their new films, described the movie like so:

“To those familiar with Mrs. Shelley’s story it will be evident that we have carefully omitted anything which might possibly shock any portion of the audience.  In making the film, the Edison Co. has carefully tried to eliminate all actual repulsive situations and to concentrate its endeavors upon the mystic and psychological problems that are to be found in this weird tale.  Whereever, therefore, the film differs from the original story it is purely with the idea of eliminating what would be repulsive to a moving picture audience.”

Sells tickets, it doesn’t!

The plot of the film is different from any of the adaptations that followed it…

Young Doctor Frankenstein bids his family goodbye, as he is leaving to attend college in order to study the sciences.  Shortly, he becomes absorbed in the mysteries of life and death to the extent of forgetting virtually all else.

He believes he has found a way to create a most perfect human being that the world has ever seen.  And so his experiment begins and the development of it in a vat of chemicals from a skeletal being to a creature of flesh and blood.

To Frankenstein's horror, instead of creating a marvel of physical excellence, there appears a hideous monster.  Upon seeing the results of his labor, Frankenstein flees the room as the monster exits the vat and enters the world.  The deformed creature peers at his “father” through the curtains of his bed.  Doctor Frankenstein faints and is then revived by his butler.

After being ill for a while, he returns home, crushed and weary.  Eventually, with care from his father and fiancee, he begins to brighten up.  The distance from his utter failure doing him some good.  The film emphasizes that the monster’s creation was only possible because Frankenstein allowed himself to be overcome by unnatural thoughts.

One evening, while sitting in his library, he glances in the mirror and sees the reflection of the monster as it enters the room.  All the terror returns to him and, fearing his sweetheart should learn the truth, he bids the monster conceal himself behind a curtain while he hurriedly induces his sweetheart to leave after only a moment.  The monster is insanely jealous of this sweetheart. He snatches from Frankenstein's coat a rose which his girl had placed there and throws Frankenstein to the floor.

Here the creation looks up and for the first time confronts his own image in the mirror and runs in terror from the room.  He later returns to the house on the wedding night and enters the bride's room.  Frankenstein hears a shriek of terror, which is followed shortly by his bride rushing in and fainting at his feet. The monster then overpowers Frankenstein and leaves the house.

The monster, broken down by his unsuccessful attempts to be with his creator, enters the room, stands before a large mirror and holds out his arms entreatingly.  Gradually, the real monster fades away, leaving only the image in the mirror.  A moment later Frankenstein enters.  As he stands before the mirror he sees the image of the monster instead of his own.

Slowly, the monster's image fades and Frankenstein sees himself in the mirror.  His bride joins him, and the film ends with their embrace, Frankenstein's mind now being relieved of the horrible burden it has been living under.

But why read all that when you can watch the entire short film here:

Or here:

  1. The film was shot in three days at the newly built Edison Studios in the Bronx, New York City.
  2. This film, as is the case with all other motion pictures made before 1922, is in the public domain in the United States.
  3. At the time of this film, the medium of film was still thought of as a vulgar medium by many actors and critics alike.
  4. In 1909, Edison and his lawyers approached nine of the other top studios with the plan to form “The Trust”, to share patents, pool resources and control everything from the manuacture of equipment to production, in an effort to continue being the leader of technical innovation in film.
  5. It is thought that Charles Ogle, the actor who played The Monster in the film created the look for The Monster based off of drawings of how actor Thomas Porter Cooke looked in the 1823 English Opera House production of the novel “Presumption or the Fate of Frankenstein”.
Some sculpture and or model kits based on the 1910 FRANKENSTEIN:
(Ain't he pretty?)
(Click to Frankensize)

(Click to Frankensize)

(Click to Frankensize)

Great sources on this particular film and on which I drew for this installment of The Goods:

Some things you should know about for late tonight,
over on Turner Classic Movies:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

(Click to Frankensize)

(Click to Frankensize)

And, finally, a little bit of this:
(Click to Frankensize)


halloween spirit said...

Interesting. I have not yet seen this version. I'll have to add it to my viewing list :)

Gary Lee said...

It's a really short film, but interesting enough for a silent picture.