Frankenstein (1910) - Full Movie

Frankenstein (1910) - Full Movie

Frankenstein was first adapted for the screen by Edison Studios in 1910. This film, which was directed by James Searle Dawley, comes after nearly a century of Shelley’s most famous novel being adapted every few years for stage, starting with Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein (1823) by Richard Binksley Peake.


The films starts with the a heading saying “A liberal adaptation from Mrs. Shelley’s famous story for Edison Production”. This film contains an almost entirely different plot and sequence of events, much of which can be attributed to the film only being 13 minutes in length. In the film, Victor's villany is paramount. The Monster was created because of Victor's evil and the entire film is about him seeing his evil, and then letting good overcome him.  

Major Themes

The Mirror

A symbol that overtakes the movie is that of the mirror.  The mirror is used in the movie to represent the clarity of good and evil.  The Monster is led by "jealousy for his creator" according to the film to find Victor and desires to know him and be loved by him. However, when he finds Victor, they have an altercation in the living room and when the Monster pushes Victor down to the ground, he sees his reflection in the mirror.  This is a major turning point in the film because the Monster sees his hideousness and evil and flees in an attempt to escape this evil.  The "monster", in a way, is also Victor.  The Monster is evil and doesn't know it until he sees his reflection and it becomes clear that there needs to a change and this echoes the process that Victor is going through.  At the end of the film, after the Monster tries to be Victor's only sense of affection and fails, he stands in front of the mirror, almost as if he finally realizes the extent of evil and his need to be good. His body disappears and only his reflection is left.  At that point, Victor comes into the room and stands in the front of the mirror and the reflection of the Monster stares back. This scene could also be seen as a sort of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde moment in which Victor realizes he is the Monster and the Monster is him (Drees), representing his evil and until good overcomes, the Monster will always be there.  This is the turning point where Victor chooses good, the Monster is gone, and he embraces Elizabeth and the film ends.  

It might have been strictly because of the moral code at the time of the film adaptation or the director's own self, but this film is very cut and dry on the tune of good and evil and doesn't leave room for questions or gray area.  However, Shelley's original novel is very ambiguous and the questions run rampant throughout the pages.  In the novel, for example, Victor robs graves and scavenges to put together a new human being whereas in the movie he simply uses alchemy and chemistry to create the Monster in a pot.


In 1963, Edward Connor stumbled upon an edition of The Edison Kinetogram from March 15th, 1910 which had a still of the Monster from the 1910 film adaption of Frankenstein.  This film was not even known to exist at the time.  In 1980, the American Film Institute included it on their list of the ten most culturally and historically significant lost films (Hall).  At the time of release, Edison Studios only made 40 rolls of film, which were distributed and shown but returned several months later and stripped to be made into new content.  Many of the films that have survived from that time in cinematic history only exist due to the work of private collectors (Drees). Luckily, the 1910 film had survived, and was being held by collector Alois Detlaff who had acquired it in the 1950's. In the 1970's, Detlaff allowed clips of the film to be shown on BBC, and these clips were later published to home video (Hall). What followed was a few decade long war over copyright claims and issues, until 1993, when the first public screening of Frankenstein was held in Milwaukee by Mr. Detlaff. The film was finally released in 2003 on DVD by Detlaff's own publishing company (Drees).


This version of Shelley’s classic differs greatly from any stage adaptation that proceeded it or film that has come since. The story is drafted to fit the moral bill of the time and focuses heavily on good and evil, but it did push the envelope in some ways with discussions of such things as alchemy and the dark sciences (Drees). According to The Edison Kinetogram, which was published after the film was released, the film also held onto the theme of Frankenstein overcoming his evil, the cause of the Monster being created. Like many early films in the 1900’s, it was lost until the 60’s when it was rediscovered.


Drees, Rich. "Edison's Frankenstein: Cinema's First Horror Film." Ed. Rich Drees. N.p., n.d. Web. Nov. 2013.

Hall, Phil. "In Search for Edison's Frankenstein." Hamster Stamped LLC, 23 June 2001. Web. Nov. 2013.

"Frankenstein (1910)." N.p., 16 Mar. 2013. Web. Nov. 2013.