Thursday, October 28, 2010

Frankenstein on Film - The Silents

Frankenstein on Film - The Silents
Frankenstein on Film - Universal Part 1
Frankenstein on Film - Universal Part 2
Frankenstein on Film - Hammer

Forgive me, Reader, for I have sinned.
It's been seven months since my last post.

I was flipping through some articles on the old Universal horror films (it being October and all), and I got to thinking how cool it'd be to see a photo comparison of all the actors who played the creature throughout the series. You know, to compare makeup and physical characteristics and stuff.

(I REALLY love to compare things.)

But. Never one to keep a simple plan simple, I got all above and beyond and started looking up pictures of every monster in every Frankenstein series (Universal, Hammer, etc.). You know, so I could really get the Full Deal.

(Did I mention that I really love to compare things? Peanut butter and jelly/peanut butter and honey, old mustangs/new mustangs, original movies/remade movies, first editions/later editions....)

So anyway, this post is for the pre-Universal silent films. It's not much of a comparison really, 'cause I found precious little information. These films seem to have little to nothing in the way of web love. So. I did the best I could.

Far as I know, the first film version of Frankenstein was done in 1910 by Edison Studios and titled, appropriately enough, "Frankenstein".

It ran about 15 minutes and took kind of an existential moralistic approach. The monster (played by Charles Ogle) is created because Frankenstein has acted on his "evil and unnatural thoughts".

I have those sometimes.

Later, the poor beast is sent to his doom by being dissolved away into the aether, as Frankenstein concentrates on exercising his "love and... better nature". Kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde-ish. Without the body-sharing.

Meh. To each his own, but I like me a good old fashioned created versus creator. None of this mamby pamby emotional stuff.

Anyhoo, we're not here to review the movie; we're here to see the monster.

First, we have the Edison Monster closeup. Ish. Closeup-ish.


I'm guessing this was a scary face in 1910.

I guess, if I take my pinkie finger, and hold it up really close to the screen right in front of his mouth, he does look pretty monster-ish. But when I don't hold up my pinkie, he looks.... Well, you can see for yourself how he looks. For early nineteen hundreds sensibilities, though, it was probably pretty daring and extreme. (Nothing to do with Mary Shelly's descriptions, but then none of the other films have gone there either.)

The full figure shot.

I know the film is a serious piece, but all I'm gettin' here is "hula dance".

I believe Elvis may be just off camera, strumming "Blue Hawaii" on his guitar....

You know, no one has ever done justice in portraying the sheer size of the creature as told by Shelly. For obvious reasons, of course. She describes him as "eight feet in height, and proportionably large". Not many actors fit that bill.

You get the movies that try (admirable), with padded shoulders and shoe lifts. And you get the ones who throw out the size thing and portray him as average (lame). To get an idea of what we're talking about, check out this real life eight foot guy, Leonid Stadnyk:

8 foot veterinarian Leonid Stadnyk, on the right (obviously), with Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych.

Yeah. You know what I'm saying then.

Anyway, just for fun, here's a pic of 1910 monster Charles Ogle sans makeup (really quite a proper looking British chap).

Just two words: Lionel Hardcastle. Am I right, those of you in the know?

Now, here's where the whole comparison thing breaks down.

Below is the ONLY image I could find having ANYTHING to do with the second film. It was called "Life Without Soul" and filmed in 1915. This was no short--no no, it weighed in at 70 minutes! Oh, how I'd love to see this one.

But. I can't; none of us can, because it's a Lost Film. Grrmph. As far as anyone knows, there are no surviving reels or stills. But then, you know, Edison's Frankenstein was considered a Lost Film until the 1970s when some bloke pulled a print out of a dusty box and said "look here!".  So you never know....

No longer comparing but in the interests of thoroughness, a fellow in Italy made a third film called Il Mostro di Frankenstein, in 1920 or 1921, depending on your sources. But there's even less known about it than about the previous one. May have run about 40 minutes and is... also... considered lost.


But I did find a photo of the Italian guy (Umberto Guarracino) who played the monster. Not actually a photo of him PLAYING the monster. Just a photo of him apparently dancing with another man.

I guess they're actually fighting. He's on the left.

He's got monster-y eyes... but the other guys bigger.
Sigh. What a downer. How does a fella compare monsters when he can't find the monsters?

Now I'm depressed.