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April 28, 2016

Silent Screams: Edison's Frankenstein (1910)

Aaah, Thomas Edison. American inventor. The catalyst for the electric (and electronic) age and the man that we can thank as the root of this curious little thing we call the internet and, to many people's surprise, an early inventor of the motion picture camera! Edison invented a film camera around the same time of the Lumiere Brothers in France (and actually shot one of the first 'gore' films: a short called "The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots" in 1896 that featured a gruesome beheading... more on that later). In 1910, though, the Edison Studios (without the direct participation of TE, unfortunately) filmed this short version of Mary Shelley's classic tale. It has erroneously been called the first horror film (just wait, we will be posting that soon) but it is the first adaptation of the novel and does feature a fairly complex 'creating the monster' scene in an early attempt at special effects. The making of the monster (with chemicals and potions as opposed to collecting body parts) was created by burning a wax dummy and running the film backwards. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

This film, shot entirely at the Edison Studios and released in May of 1910, was considered lost for half a decade when a nitrate print was discovered in Wisconsin in 1970.

The film was written and directed by J. Searle Dawley and stars Augustus Phillips as Dr. Frankenstein, Mary Fuller as Elizabeth and, in a wonderfully expressive performance, Charles Ogle as The Monster.

And, without further adieu, fiends... Edison's Frankenstein.

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