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||IMDB Rating: 6.5/10 from votes
||Release: 18 March 1910 (USA) /
||Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi, Short
||Director: Mary Shelley,
||Stars: Augustus Phillips, Charles Ogle, Mary Fuller
||Synopsis: Frankenstein, a young medical student, trying to create the perfect human being, instead creates a misshapen monster. Made ill by what he has done, Frankenstein is comforted by his fiancée but on his wedding night he is visited by the monster. A fight ensues but the monster, seeing himself in a mirror, is horrified and runs away. He later returns, entering the new bride's room, and finds her alone. Written by Doug Sederberg <[email protected]>
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Watch Frankenstein - Alternative Versions.
Produced by Thomas Edison's very own Edison Studios, J. Searle Dawley's
'Frankenstein' has been widely considered the first American horror
film. Thought to be lost up until the 1970s when it was recovered from
the infamous Alois Dettlaff's private collection, 'Frankenstein' has
slowly established itself as one of the greatest silent shorts within
the early horror genre.
The story quickly progresses, beginning with a scene of Frankenstein
(Augustus Phillips) leaving his fiancée Elizabeth (Mary Fuller) to
attend college. Some two years later, Frankenstein learns "the secret
of life" whilst working in his study one day. He immediately writes a
letter to his fiancée, telling her his intentions of creating the
perfect human being. Frankenstein proceeds to perform the now-famous
experiment and The Monster (played by the wonderful Charles Ogle) is
born. The Monster takes shape in a giant vat, located in a sealed off
room which is viewed by Frankenstein through a single viewing window.
As the once lifeless monster rises from the vat, Frankenstein becomes
terrified of his seemingly ghastly creation. The Monster quickly breaks
out of the barricaded room and into the laboratory. After a close
encounter with The Monster; Frankenstein makes the decision to return
home to Elizabeth. As Frankenstein and Elizabeth's wedding begins, they
become aware that The Monster has followed Frankenstein back home and a
night of horror ensues.
Our beloved genre's debut is filmed in the non-moving camera fashion
typical of early 1900s films, inherently giving the impression of a
stage play. The plot of this little short does not closely follow the
plot of Shelley's novel, nor does it reflect that of the later
Universal version, but none the less a startlingly unique and
entertaining outcome it is. The photography is excellent and does well
to continuously and tactfully reflect the mood being established. As
seen in (most notably) John Barrymore's version of 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde' (1920) many of the laboratory scenes were shot using a brown tint
whereas in the later part of the film, when the dark or horrific
happenings begin to occur, a blue tint is used. Charles Ogle's take on
The Monster is strikingly innovative and original, especially when
compared to Boris Karloff's familiar 1931 portrayal. The makeup is
excellent and apparently was applied by Charles Ogle himself (Ala Lon
Chaney, eh?). The long fingernails, hunched back, and distorted face
give Ogle's Monster quite a threatening aura as do his various facial
contortions and arm-movements. Ogle's Monster is one fit for the ages
and has become something of an icon of early horror cinema. Augustus
Phillips does an excellent job portraying Frankenstein, with a broad
range of emotions throughout the film and Mary Fuller proves to be a
superb actress, playing the "damsel in distress" role superbly. One of
the many qualities which stand out in Dawley's take on the tale was not
only the innovative portrayal of The Monster, but the ending sequence.
The defeat of The Monster is far more psychological and fantastic
rather than scientific, which one wouldn't expect of a movie based
around scientific advancements. Furthermore, beneath the surface of
this incredible little short lies a premeditated philosophical meaning,
one that is quite reminiscent of R.L. Stevenson's familiar tale of Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Essentially, the film emphasizes the dual nature
of man and his urge to unleash his inner-self. The Monster essentially
represents the evil and unforgivable aspects of Frankenstein's persona.
The mysterious ending sequence stresses this insightful use of
symbolism. The outcome is a beautifully shot film, with convincing
actors, innovative effects (for the time), excellent makeup, and a
substantially intelligent and charming finale.
The very deepest roots of horror can be found in this little 16 minute
gem. From the terrified look on Frankenstein's face when the first
monster in U.S. cinema history comes to life, to the last moments of
footage, the film leaves one captivated in its grasp. Myself being a
long-time fan of the genre, thought it crucial to finally track this
window into the past down. It is bewildering to look at this little
atmospheric and strikingly intelligent take on Shelley's novel and to
then look where the genre has come, with modern classics such as 'The
Shining', 'Psycho (1960)', and 'Rosemary's Baby'. Edison Studios
produced a true gem of early cinema - and the beginning of an epic
and what an excellent beginning it is.
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, Charles Ogle
, Mary Fuller
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