Director: J. Searle Dawley
Cast: Mary Fuller, Charles Ogle, Augustus Phillips
Synopsis: Medical student Victor Frankenstein accidentally creates a grotesque monster when trying to create the perfect human being.
Given that it clocks in at a brisk 16-minute running time it’s hardly surprising that cinema’s first adaptation of Mary Shelley’s seminal horror classic Frankenstein provides a selection of scenes from the novel rather than a coherent narrative. The film was believed lost until the 1970s, when the original nitrate print was discovered in Wisconsin. The monster is played by Charles Ogle, an unknown actor today who made more than 300 films in a career that spanned just eighteen years. The make-up’s quite impressive for such an early movie, but the most memorable aspect of the film is the actual creation of the monster. It isn’t made up from the dismembered limbs of corpses as it would be in all later Frankenstein movies, but created in a giant vat from some mysterious potion. The effect was actually achieved by burning an effigy of a man and then running the film backwards in order to give the impression of a man being created. Those looking for a story will struggle unless they’re familiar with the novel, but Frankenstein is worth a look if only for those effects and the film’s place in cinema history.
(Reviewed 16th December 2014)