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News Article

Vintage Horror Cinema: Thomas Edison's 'Frankenstein'

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Edison Frankenstein

Motion pictures have been around for more than a century, and some of the very first films ever made were designed to scare audiences. In fact, one urban legend describes how a short film by cinematic pioneers the Lumière Brothers made audiences scream and run from the theater at the sight of an oncoming train. Sure, it sounds goofy now, and it probably came as a surprise to the filmmakers too, but it's arguably the first true moment of terror caused by a movie. Artists picked up on this when experimenting with the new medium, and immediately set about scaring audiences on purpose. This new series will travel back in time to the very first cinematic scares, and reveal a few choice bits of info about each pick. Not all of them are considered masterpieces, but all of them played a major role in popularizing horror on the silver screen.

Today's item is the first documented adaptation of Mary Shelley's legendary monster tale Frankenstein. While we're all well acquainted with James Whale's 1931 adaptation as one of the greatest horror films ever made, not as many know about this 1910 adaptation, one of many short films financed by American inventor Thomas Alva Edison, whose compay manufactured a new "Vitasccope" film projection system and formed one of the very first movie studios. The film was shot by one of Edison Studios' in-house directors, J. Searle Dawley.
 
Frankenstein 1910 program
Aside from some interesting clips featuring the monster growing in the lab (a cool camera trick, shooting the melting of wax flesh off a skeleton, then running the film in reverse), the full 14-minute film was believed lost, until a complete version was uncovered in the 1970s, and later transferred to modern 35mm stock. For the film's 100th anniversary in 2010, a restored version was released digitally, with enhanced color tinting (many early silent films were hand-painted in color) and new title cards taken from the text of Mary Shelley's novel. It's still online, and you can watch it right here:

 

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