A Silent Film Frankenstein

Just a quick one today. The Durmoose Movie Musings blog is running a 31 Days of Halloween mini-blog-film-fest, which I plan to follow as much as I have time to (luckily, it looks like he’s going mostly for shorts). Since his second offering was The Golem (which I recently posted about), obviously he’s got good taste….

His first offering was the 100 year old silent version of Frankenstein, produced by Edison Studios. Those of us who are familiar with Frankenstein mostly through film or television versions tend to define the monster by Boris Karloff’s flat-headed, stitched-together interpretation. And we think of the monster’s creation in terms of James Whale’s Tesla (and Der Golem) inspired electric lab. So it’s interesting to see the Edison version, where Dr. Frankenstein creates the monster by mixing together a bunch of herbs (well, probably chemicals, but I like to think that they’re herbs) and tossing them into a cauldron that I assume holds the body to be animated, and then letting it simmer. It’s like Macbeth’s witches.

The “come-to-life” scene is pretty cool, and there are some cute 1910-era special effects at the end involving mirrors. Mirrors are a big motif in this movie. And best of all — for the busy — it’s only fifteen minutes long.

So enjoy.

If perchance you’d like to enjoy this on your own device, rather than youtube, the movie is public domain and available at archive.org. Also, if you have more than fifteen minutes, please do also enjoy James Whale’s definitive 1931 version of movie Frankenstein. There’s a version (with Spanish subtitles), on Vimeo.

10 thoughts on “A Silent Film Frankenstein

  1. The Edison Frankenstein was thought to be lost for many years, but a man in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, rediscovered it. There was a big deal made over rights, so I’m happy to see that it’s out and about on the Internet.

    I lived in Milwaukee for several years, and before it broke its chains and went rampaging across the Web, the film was shown on the big screen at one of the revival theaters there.

    (Why did King Kong just spring to mind?)

    It was very cool to see something that had been mostly unseen for decades. The fact that it was a version of Frankenstein–one of my favorite stories–made it even more fun.

    • Cool! I didn’t know about the Milwaukee angle. I’ll have to look up Edison Studios, too, one of these days.

      It was cool to see, especially since I saw the James Whale version not too long ago. The ending of the Edison version was interesting….

      • I agree — I kind of like it more than the Whale version.

        Apparently, there was a phase of Frankenstein stage adaptations and critical interpretations that put a very Jekyll/Hyde spin on the story. The creature is presented as Dr. Frankenstein’s dark side, and this 15 minute version certainly plays with that.

  2. That little film is really interesting, a real curiosity. I didn’t even know there was a silent Frankenstein! I love the melodramatic/balletic movements and gestures of the beleaguered Doctor. The ending is pretty confusing, it seemed established that the monster was physically real but is then banished by love as though he were some kind of poisonous figment. I like the scene with the doctor lying on the bed with the beast looming over him, it’s like a nod to that famous Gothic painting ‘the nightmare’. Great post, I really enjoyed it, Thanks.

    • You are welcome! It’s a fun movie. The scene you pointed out is a beautiful one, and it is rather like Fuselli’s The Nightmare, I hadn’t thought about it.

      Re. the ending: as Tim Prasil says in one of the previous comments, there was a period when Frankenstein was thought of as a variation of the Jekyll and Hyde story. So I guess love made “Mr Hyde” disappear in this case. It is a touch confusing, but it was a cool special effect.

      >

  3. How odd! I was just clearing out and re-arranging one of my bookcases and Frankenstein was lodge underneath. Had to break out a flash light and put a yoga pose or two to use use to get it unstuck.

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