From the beginning the plot, the set design, the special effects and makeup grabbed the attention of it viewers. The scenes when the Frankenstein monster gradually comes to life was considered by critics “probably the most remarkable ever committed to film.” By press and public it was seen as one of the most interesting and fascinating pictures to appear on the silver-screen. The reviewers raved regarding this fantasy horror film, based on Mrs. Mary Shelley’s tale of the monster created by the young Dr. Frankenstein, referring to it as one of the most absorbing dramas ever produced, a photographic marvel.
All of those responses were well earned, for no one had seen anything like it. It was fresh and thrilling with questions of life and death, research out of control, bioethics gone severely awry. For the geniuses behind the project, words like “very rich,” “weird,” “weirdly fascinating,” and “wonderful” were used to describe the production values and artistic merit of this seminal piece of celluloid. Frankenstein left upon the film industry the impression of the possibilities of expressing dramatic scenes in motion pictures, leaving with the viewer a lasting sense of the power of the production. Yet there were those Nay-Sayers, that felt deeply that the subject was too gruesome and ghastly, and that film-makers should refrain and dispense with portraying these types of stories on the moving screen.
The Individual Response:
Frankenstein was a tightly reined film, kept short, cleverly edited and it accomplished what all films hope for, it left the audiences wanting more. The black and white photography (with just a tinge of tint) was crisp, the music selected for the film was mysterious and weird (there goes that word again) in places, often having an agitated character.
When seeing the dramatic moments of Frankenstein, when the monster comes to life, those first steps, the twitches and the clumsiness of the creature’s dexterity, his self-awareness which is pathetic, is to the movie-watcher breath-taking, tragic and filled with foreboding. Today the film is just as powerful, heartrending, heart-touching and filled with tenseness at the frightening concept of the story, as when it first premiered.
Behind the Scenes: Identity confused?
By now you may be wondering why write about a film that has been explored so many times before? Why wax adoringly over a movie that has had so many books written about it, a sundry of documentaries investigating every aspect of the project, with countless magazine articles describing the make-up, the costumes and the hardware used for the flick? Why take the time to make mention of a film that has been released on every type of media available, and has seen countless festival play-dates and re-issues? The answer is, I would need much more time and research to render a piece on that Frankenstein with which I would be satisfied; what I have written above is of course not about the Carl Laemmle Jr. production of Frankenstein in 1931, but instead is about, Frankenstein which was released on March 18, 1910, produced by Thomas A. Edison and filmed at the Edison Studio. The film was directed by J. Searle Dawley, also Mr. Dawley adapted the scenario from Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s novel; Mary Fuller portrayed Elizabeth, Augustus Phillips appeared as Victor Frankenstein and Charles Ogle was the Monster.
You may view this, the first filmed interpretation of the book online at the Internet Archive, the price? Complimentary…enjoy!
November 21, is the anniversary of the opening of the Universal production of Frankenstein, which premiered in 1931; but that is another story for another day.
Stills and adverts of our 1910 subject:
By C. S. Williams
 Herald-Republican (Salt Lake City, Utah) May 2, 1910
 Pioneer (Bemidji, Minnesota) May 6, 1910
 Allentown Democrat (Allentown, Pennsylvania) May 10, 1910
Kearney Daily Hub (Kearney, Nebraska) May 16, 1910
 Bisbee Daily Review (Bisbee, Arizona) May 15, 1910
Austin daily Herald (Austin, Minnesota) June 1, 1910
San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, California) June 12, 1910
 Moving Picture World, April 2, 1910
 Moving Picture World, April 9, 1910
 Moving Picture World, April 1, 1911