Friday, 20 April 2012

Frankenstein

Frankenstein; silent horror short, USA, 1910; D: J. Searle Dawley, S: Augustus Phillips, Charles Ogle, Mary Fuller

Frankenstein, a young student, tries to decipher the mystery of life. Having found it, he uses alchemy to create a human - but it turns out to be a monster. Frankenstein and his fiancee are shocked by it. The monster sees itself in the mirror and disappears, leaving the image of Frankenstein behind.

The first film adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel "Frankenstein", this eponymous film by director Dawley was deemed lost for decades until it was re-discovered in the 50s and entered public domain. Just like most early films of the 20th century, this is also almost exclusively filmed in wide shots, without any close-ups, since the directors at that time had no frame of reference and did not yet know how to use the medium in any other than simplistic way. Clumsy and naive, with scenes where the monster shows up - just like that - more like an uninvited normal guest into Frankenstein's house than a real menace (the simplistic "Halloween" costume did not help either), the movie is inarticulate and was easily overshadowed 20 years later with Whale's more memorable cult contribution featuring Karloff, yet here some scenes do reveal small crumbs of more sophisticated approach at film (the creation of the monster, filmed with a "corpse" burning in reverse) and the scene where the monster looks at Frankenstein sleeping in his bed.

Grade:++

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