Frank? Is That You?

Long­time vis­i­tors here might recall I have some­thing of a loose tra­di­tion of doing draw­ings of Franken­stein’s mon­ster on Hal­loween. So here you go again!

…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!


2 thoughts on “Frank? Is That You?

    1. Mark Post author

      Glad you like it, Joe. This Franken­stein mon­ster is so dif­fer­ent from the one we’re all famil­iar with!
      As I was work­ing on this, I had the thought that maybe who­ev­er came up with the look might have been at least semi-inspired by Kabu­ki? I’m no expert by any means, but it seems like if this Franken­stein had wan­dered onstage dur­ing a Kabu­ki per­for­mance, he would­n’t have looked too hor­ri­bly out of place visually.


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