22 October 2010

1910 - A Great Year for Movies

Yes, it most certainly was.  Many people would not associate 1910 with films at all, let alone two beauties which even one hundred years later can make you sit up and pay attention.  Production standards have changed somewhat, but the two movies featured here are remarkable for their age – and for their chosen subject matter.
The first is Edison Studio’s Frankenstein, the first cinematic adaptation of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel.  Some people say that Thomas Edison was in fact the producer of this piece (the quality of which improves considerably half way through) but he had no part in the day to day running of the studio – it simply bore his name.

All movies made before 1922 in the US are now in the public domain so there are no laws being broken by watching it here in its entirety!  In fact we are lucky enough to be celebrating its centenary – for many years the film was thought to be lost. 

In the 50s a film buff, Alois F Dettlaff bought a copy from his mother-in-law and had no idea of its value for many years. In the sixties a summary of the plot resurfaced in a 1910 Edison film catalogue and Dettlaff drew attention to the existence of his copy only in the 70s.  Thanks to him we can now see the movie in its entirety – as I said before, be patient, the quality improves.

Frank L Baum did not have to wait as long as Mary Shelley for an adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz but when it came ten years after the publication of the novel it was done without any input from the author.  It was made by the fantastically named Selig Polyscope Company.

The film starts with Dorothy being chased in to a field by the mule Hank where she sees the farm;s scarecrow come to life.  Then the cyclone appears and takes the pair along with Tota and Imogene the cow (uh huh) to Oz.  They meet the characters of Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion as well as Eureka the Kitten (uh huh #2).  The wicked witch’s army are flying lizards here, unlike the Garland version where they are monkeys.

One hundred years on we have no firm idea who was in the cast or even who directed it.  It is thought that Dorothy could be Bebe Daniels but no actors are credited on the film.  It is unlikely now that they will be ever identified.

However, the centenary of both films show that 1910 was a vintage year for movies, in more ways than one.