As we creep toward Halloween, get in the mood by visiting with the very first cinematic Frankenstein’s monster.
This short film from Edison Studios was made in 1910 by writer/director J. Searle Dawley. It stars Augustus Phillips as Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Charles Ogle as the Monster, and Mary Fuller as the doctor’s fiancée.
It ain’t Karloff, but it’s a fascinating piece of film history. There’s some creative use of a mirror, both in the mise-en-scène and in the storytelling, and the sequence depicting the birth of the monster is primitive but amazingly creepy.
There’s an excellent column here exploring the many insipid and wrongheaded ways that Disney dropped the ball, or flat-out abandoned the ball, with John Carter and ultimately fucked over its filmmakers as well as the many fans who would have gotten to enjoy sequels to the film that will now never be made. I definitely recommend it.
I think one of the biggest contributing factors was that the executives who started the project had all been canned by the time it came to actually prepare it for release. And the new executives, in no way responsible for the material and not wanting the guys they replaced to have a hit, threw it under the bus. Now they can point to John Carter as a huge flop and say, “See? Aren’t you glad we’re in charge now?” This kind of pettiness is all too common in Hollywood (and in publishing, for that matter).
One of the results of this crappy attitude was a marketing campaign that hit no high points, that did nothing to capitalize on any of the selling points of the film (Two-time Academy Award winning Pixar director! Pulitzer/Hugo/Nebula-winning novelist as screenwriter! From the creator of Tarzan! A classic book which inspired many classics in turn finally on the big screen!). Even removing the “Of Mars” from the title stripped it of cool; aside from SF fans, who the fuck knows who John Carter is, these days, except maybe the boyish doctor on ER? As I’ve said before, it should have been called John Carter and The Princess of Mars, which incorporates the title of the original book, captures the pulpish science fantasy romanticism of the piece, and indicates that the film offers up not just a dashing hero but a cool new Disney princess who can actually kick ass.
Anyway. They blew it. But if you want to see what the marketing department could have done, check out this trailer put together by a freaking fan, who didn’t have Disney’s millions and supposed marketing savvy to draw on…then watch the cheestastic trailer actually released by Disney (which, among its many sins, stupidly shows Carter engaging in over-the-top physical feats that look ridiculous because they give them no fucking context).