View Full Version : McChrist reviews Edison's FRANKENSTEIN (1910)

07-18-2003, 11:17 PM
Edison's FRANKENSTEIN (1910)

Dir. by J. Searle Dawley

When one says "Frankenstein" one usually immediatly thinks of Boris Karloff with a flat head. Of course as it was, Karloff did not play the first incarnation of the scientist's abomination.

Leave it to Thomas Edison's production company to produce Frankenstein a whole twenty years earlier in the infancy of cinema. This film was thought lost, only a few stills and brief clips remained. Miraculously, it was found in the collection of an aging asshole who had hoarded this valuable prize from public view for many years. Well known as an archivist, as a boy he had collected as much film as he possible could from the local nickelodeons. Little did he know that his only claim to fame would be found in all that.

For several years this man, Mr. Detlaff, kept claiming that he would release this one day. In the years that followed, the author was afraid that the bastard would knock off before he had an opportunity to give us film-buff's a chance. But here it is...

And what can the author say, really. We have a very brief (ten minutes or so) condensed retelling of the Shelly novel. A few static set pieces, the Dr. has a eureka moment, the creature is born, the creature makes a few mean-looking faces, and the Dr. goes mad.

This piece is probably the most notorious footnote in film history. Of course everything is important being the first, but that doesn't make it good. This was typical of the earliest cinema, small pieces that did nothing but showcase the concept of the moving picture, so brief pieces of spectacle without any real substance. It wouldn't be until 1913 that features like Richard III and The Student of Prague would make any real attempts at a narrative. This Edison piece was really a case of "look what I can do." A period of experimentation which led to the very basics of film technique used even today, but if you are looking for anything substantial, you aren't going to find anything from the first couple decades. 1915 is a place to start.

Of course experimentation is an important step, the author thinks of the dreck that filtered the multiplexes from the 1990's and onward as techies are attempting to get the most out of digital technology. We're right back to where we started from, but fortunatly we're starting to come out of the shallow and faceless blockbuster to something a bit more substantial.

Frankenstein is not a good film, it has some decent special effects, but the author thinks that it is important to call a spade a spade and say that Frankenstein is tripe. First or not, this is the typical mindless crap of the time. Try Nosferatu (1922) instead, based off Dracula, it isn't the first Dracula film (there were two others produced, one in Hungary and another in Russia (1919 and 1920 respectably) but unfortunately they are still missing in action). Nosferatu even to this day stands out as a fine example of what horror is all about and has stood the test of time for eighty years. Frankenstein shines as nothing more than a footnote.

07-19-2003, 04:24 AM
Damn good review, MC!! I couldn't have said it better. It was hard waiting to see this film for so many years and after watching the FULL 10 Minutes, I didn't know what to think, but why the hell was I so hell bent on seeing it? As you said, it is because it was the first and a valuable footnote in history!!

07-19-2003, 05:34 AM
Where can this be seen/acquired?

07-19-2003, 11:15 AM
Thanks for the review. I never felt the same need to see this as you all - but I'm a not surprised that it's merely a curiosity. At 425 (right?) that's an expensive ten minutes.

Is it anamorphic?

:lol: :lol: :lol:

07-20-2003, 02:53 AM
Originally posted by ekent
Where can this be seen/acquired?


Here's a thread I started about it a while back. There's an official site, but I just got one off Ebay. It is pretty pricey for what you get.