Ogle at the Monster
The year is 1910 and whilst film making had already been around for 30 years cinema was still in its infancy. Along comes directors J. Searle Dawley working for the Edison Studio and made the first movie version of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" a 16 minute horror short which is now available for all to see as it has fallen into the public domain. This movie for cinema buffs is important as it is often regarded as the first horror movie but for general movie fans it is an interesting look at cinema from a long time ago.
Medical student Victor Frankenstein (Augustus Phillips) moves to a college so that he can continue his endeavours to discover the ultimate secret of life and has set himself a goal of creating the perfect human. Following months of research he believes he has found the secret and puts his experiment into action. To his joy he manages to create life but also to his horror the life he has created is far from perfect and is a monster (Charles Ogle). Emotionally wrecked by what he has done he abandons the monster and returns to the safety of his girlfriend Elizabeth (Mary Fuller) only for the monster to follow him.
When you think most movies these days generally run for a minimum of 90 minutes it is amazing that in just 16 minutes these early movie makers were able to tell a story. Now it is no shock when I say that this 1910 version of "Frankenstein" is really just the pivotal scenes, the creation of the monster himself and the monster seeing the abomination he is when he sees his reflection in a mirror but it is effective. In fact it I will say again it is amazing that having sliced away so much of the story the heart of the story is still very clear to see.
Of course early movie making is nothing like it is now and what we have is the feel of a stage play, a static camera capturing the action from on a set but like with the much shortened version of the story it works. The reason why is that despite being a short and silent movie the small group of actors do a remarkable job of emoting their feelings so that you understand the psychological side of how creating and being a monster effects them.
What this all boils down to is that the 1910 version of "Frankenstein" is an interesting movie even for those who are not cinema buffs as it allows them to appreciate how effective these early short movies could be.