Monday, February 13, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Frankenstein (1910) ***

NR, 16 min.
Director: J. Searle Dawley
Writers: J. Searle Dawley, Mary Shelley (novel)
Starring: Augustus Phillips, Charles Ogle, Mary Fuller

The first ever film production of Mary Shelley’s classic horror novel “Frankenstein” may very well be the first horror movie ever made. To modern audiences, it probably plays more like a comic interpretation of the story. Even the title card that explains that this is a “liberal” adaptation of the book has an air of comedy about it. But in 1910, a film like this was amazing.

This movie is one of the few versions of the story in which the monster is actually created from scratch, instead of being made up of parts from corpses. This sequence is a little repetitive, but presents a much more horrific ‘birth’ for Frankenstein’s monster. The way the monster forms first into a skeleton and progresses to flesh forming over the bones reflects a less humane act than what the misguided doctor performs in most other versions. This supports the notion that his desire to create life is an evil act. The resolution, where the monster disappears into the mirror and then becomes the reflection of Frankenstein himself, suggests some intriguing implications about the role of creator as well.

It’s a great shame that the film hasn’t been better preserved or restored. It is, however, available for streaming all over the net. Watch the entire movie on the YouTube link below. Although I gave the movie three stars, a star rating is just about a moot point when dealing with such early entries into filmmaking. Compared to today’s movie making standards and considering the poor quality of the print, it’s nearly impossible to measure this movie on an artistic scale. In terms of historical importance, however, its value is priceless.

No comments: