“Frankenstein” isn’t the only “Frankenstein.” James Whale’s 1931 take on Mary Shelley’s iconic novel was beaten to the punch by the Edison Manufacturing Company, which in 1910 produced what a title card describes as a “liberal adaptation” of the story.
It’s described as neither “all that revelatory” nor “especially rare” in a new Library of Congress blog entry, but a newly restored version of the 13-minute short is instead “an instance in which the story of how a particular reel came to be in our collection is more interesting than the film itself.”
Wendi Maloney, who wrote the blog entry, describes how the Library purchased a collection of prints in 2014 that included a nitrate print of “Frankenstein.” Alois F. Dettlaff acquired it in the 1950s and brought it with him to film festivals and monster conventions for decades; a meeting with then-AMPAS president Robert Wise in 1986 failed to persuade Wise to let the Academy preserve and archive it.
“While it came in a fairly nondescript can, it didn’t take us long to get the reel into our film preservation lab for a 2K scan in advance of photochemical preservation. From that 2K scan, we worked on a digital restoration,” Maloney writes of the process.
“The film’s head credits and the first intertitle were missing, but fortunately the Edison Historic Site in East Orange, New Jersey, had a copy of the head credit we could drop into place; the intertitle was recreated using the style of the other titles. We asked Donald Sosin, a highly regarded silent film composer and accompanist, to provide a score.”
It’s now available via the Library’s YouTube channel as well as the National Screening Room, and intrepid readers may watch it below.