…What? You don’t recognize this guy? That’s because he pre-dates the Universal Studios/Boris Karloff version we’re all more familiar with. In fact, you’re looking at the first film version of Frankenstein ever, from 1910! Released by Thomas Edison and running between 11–16 minutes (depending on how fast the film passed through the projector), you could say it was something of a “Cliffs Notes” version of the story. Like the later Universal version, there were some alterations to Mary Shelley’s original novel for various reasons (such as running time).
For years, this film was thought to be one of the (sadly) many lost films of the silent era. Growing up, I only ever saw a couple of still images from it in library books about old sci fi, horror and fantasy films. But the film was later discovered in a private film collection! Apparently, the Library of Congress did a restoration project of the film not long ago, and you can see it here.
One of the things I was struck by was how different the monster’s creation is in this film. In place of the more pseudo-/quasi-scientific birth of the classic Universal version, we have something that feels more magical/mystical/alchemical in nature. It must have been stunning for audiences 100+ years ago. As a modern viewer, it’s not hard to figure out how they did the effect here, but it’s no less effective for being able to understand it. The whole film has something of a dream-/nightmare-like feel to it.
I started this off just thinking it would be fun to do a creepy portrait of the monster, and definitely got carried away with the rendering, but I was having fun doing it. Obviously the film is in B/W, so my colors are only a guess. But they felt about right to me, and kind of worked with the values in the still shots.
Hope you enjoy my version of Edison’s version of Frankenstein. Happy Halloween!