CINEMA & TECHNOLOGY
This short film was the first motion picture adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The unbilled cast included Augustus Phillips as Dr. Frankenstein, Charles Ogle as the Monster, and Mary Fuller as the doctor's fiancée.
Directed by J. Searle Dawley
Written by J. Searle Dawley
Based on Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Distributed by Edison Manufacturing Company
Release dates March 18, 1910
Running time 16 minutes
Country United States
Frankenstein, a young student, is seen bidding his sweetheart and father goodbye, as he is leaving home to enter a college in order to study the sciences. Shortly after his arrival at college he becomes absorbed in the mysteries of life and death to the extent of forgetting practically everything else.
His great ambition is to create a human being, and finally one night his dream is realized. He is convinced that he has found a way to create a most perfect human being that the world has ever seen. We see his experiment commence and the development of it in a vat of chemicals from a skeletal being. To Frankenstein's horror, instead of creating a marvel of physical beauty and grace, there is unfolded before his eyes and before the audience an awful, ghastly, abhorrent monster. As he realizes what he has done Frankenstein rushes from the room as the monster moves through the doors Frankenstein has placed before the vat. The misshapen monster peers at Frankenstein through the curtains of his bed. He falls fainting to the floor, where he is found by his servant, who revives him.After a few weeks' illness, he returns home, a broken, weary man, but under the loving care of father and sweetheart he regains his health and strength and begins to take a less morbid view of life. The film's story emphasizes that the creation of the monster was possible only because his normal mind was overcome by evil and unnatural thoughts. His marriage is soon to take place. But one evening, while sitting in his library, he chances to glance in the mirror before him and sees the reflection of the monster which has just opened the door of his room. All the terror of the past comes over him and, fearing lest his sweetheart should learn the truth, he bids the monster conceal himself behind the curtain while he hurriedly induces his sweetheart, who then comes in, to stay only a moment. The monster, who is following his creator with the devotion of a dog, is insanely jealous of anyone else. He snatches from Frankenstein's coat the rose which his sweetheart has given him, and in the struggle throws Frankenstein to the floor, here the monster looks up and for the first time confronts his own reflection in the mirror. Appalled and horrified at his own image he flees in terror from the room. Not being able, however to live apart from his creator, he again comes to the house on the wedding night and, searching for the cause of his jealousy, goes into the bride's room. Frankenstein coming into the main room hears a shriek of terror, which is followed a moment after by his bride rushing in and falling in a faint at his feet. The monster then enters and after overpowering Frankenstein's feeble efforts by a slight exercise of his gigantic strength leaves the house.
Dawley, working for the Edison Company, shot the film in three days at the Edison Studios in the Bronx, New York City. Some sources credit Thomas Edison as the producer. The production was deliberately designed to de-emphasize the horrific aspects of the story and focus "...upon the mystic and psychological problems that are to be found in this weird tale."
Rediscovery and preservation
For many years, this film was believed to be a lost film. In 1963, a plot description (reprinted above) and stills were discovered published in the March 15, 1910 issue of an old Edison film catalog, The Edison Kinetogram.
In the early 1950s a print of this film was purchased by a Wisconsin film collector, Alois F. Dettlaff, from his mother-in-law, who also collected films. He did not realize its rarity until many years later. Its existence was first revealed in the mid-1970s. Although somewhat deteriorated, the film was in viewable condition, complete with titles and tints as seen in 1910. Dettlaff had a 35 mm preservation copy made in the late 1970s. He also issued a DVD release of 1,000 copies.
BearManor Media released the public domain film in a restored edition on March 18, 2010, alongside the novel Edison's Frankenstein, which was written by Frederick C. Wiebel, Jr.
The film, as well as all other motion pictures released before 1923, is now in the public domain in the United States.
Frankenstein is in the public domain (CC0) , and you can download it here for free: archive.org/details/Frankenstein
This media file is in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923. See this page for further explanation.