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Late Night Sci-Fi Theater: Thomas Edison’s Frankenstein

Speaking of Frankenstein, tonight’s late night sci-fi theater is one of the most obscure and historically memorable attempts to capture Mary Shelley’s novel: Thomas Edison’s Frankenstein.

In 1910, Thomas Edision’s film production studios set aside three days to film the first-ever adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein… in the Bronx, of all places. Being somewhat lame even by the standards of the time, it faded into obscurity, until it regained fame in 1963 when a film historian discovered a 1910 edition of The Edison Kinetogram with a picture of Charles Ogle as the Frankenstein Monster on the cover.

It immediately became the most famous lost film of all tme. In 1980, the AFI declated it one of the top ten most culturally and historically significant lost films, which prompted a film collector named Alois Felix Dettlaff to admit that he, in fact, had a copy in his collection. He spent most of the 80’s sitting on Edison’s Frankenstein, trying to figure out a way to make his fortune off of it, before finally screening it at the Avalon Theater in Milwaukee in 1993.

And now it’s up on Google Video! It’s pretty quaint, but it’s worth a watch, if only to see some interesting proto-special-effects, like a papier mache skeleton covered in phosphorous burning in reverse, merrily waving its hand at the camera. Frankenstein is more of an alchemist than a re-animator this time around. Overall, I remain somewhat surprised that a 13 minute short can still feel so padded in length.

Edison’s Frankenstein [Film Buff Online]

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