The Monsters Are Coming

Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
R: Lucius Henderson. B: Robert Louis Stevenson (novel), Thomas Russell Sullivan (play). D: James Cruze, Florence La Badie, Marie Eline. P: Thanhouser Film Corporation. USA 1912

Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
R: Herbert Brenon. B: Herbert Brenon, Robert Louis Stevenon (novel). D: King Baggot, Jane Gail, Matt Snyder, Howard Crampton. P: Independent Moving Pictures Co. of America / Universal. USA 1913

“Carl Laemmle, the son of a poor Jewish estate agent, was born in Laupheim, Germany in 1867. By 1884, he had emigrated to America and in 1905 he invested his savings into a nickelodeon chain and his fortunes were made. By 1909 he entered into film production as the Independent Motion Picture Co. as a slight against the new Motion Picture Patents Co. that planned to take control over the whole film industry. Out of the ensuing battle emerged Universal, an amalgamation of IMP, Bison, Eclair, Nestor and several other small film companies. Amongst their early productions was a successful string of films based on classic literature. One of these is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1913) starring Universal’s biggest box office draw of the day, King Baggott who had been lured to the studio by Laemmle in 1910 at the end of a stage tour.”
Classic horror

Frankenstein
R: J. Searle Dawley. B: Mary Shelley (novel). D: Mary Fuller, Charles Ogle, Augustus Phillips. P: Edison Manufacturing Co. USA 1910

“As the popularity of motion pictures grew, so did the attention they received from moral crusaders and reform groups, who decried the new medium as being dangerous and encouraging of immorality. Some called for strict laws governing film content and some communities banned theatres all together. Knowing that these groups could pose a serious threat to his bottom line, Edison ordered that not only the production quality of his films be improved, but also their moral tone. The Trust even set up the first Board of Censors, consisting of film executives and religious and education leaders.
Frankenstein was the perfect choice to kick off production under this new moral banner. It’s a story that deals with the extremes of the human condition, life and death, and the dangers of tampering in God’s realm. Plus, Edison made sure that publicity stressed that some of the more sensational elements of the Mary Shelly’s novel had been toned down. The March 15, 1910 edition of The Edison Kinetogram, the catalog that the Edison Company would send to distributors to hype their new films, described the film as such:
‘To those familiar with Mrs. Shelly’s story it will be evident that we have carefully omitted anything which might be any possibility shock any portion of the audience. In making the film the Edison Co. has carefully tried to eliminate all actual repulsive situations and to concentrate its endeavors upon the mystic and psychological problems that are to be found in this weird tale. Wherever, therefore, the film differs from the original story it is purely with the idea of eliminating what would be repulsive to a moving picture audience.’”
One of those changes made to the narrative concerns the creation of Frankenstein’s monster. While Shelly’s novel did not go into specifics about the monster’s creation, the creation scene in the film certainly owes more to alchemy than science. The film certainly didn’t stress the danger of unchecked scientific experimentation, not when the boss has transformed the world with his own scientific marvels. Instead, the monster is cast more as a reflection of Frankenstein’s baser instincts and dark reflection of a mind that presumed to meddle in God’s domain.”
Rich Drees: Edison’s Frankenstein – Cinema’s First Horror Film
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