The Creation of the Monster in Frankenstein (1910) (film still from Frankenstein)

Frankenstein (1910)

Sometimes, when an effect is particularly difficult to pull off, it helps to look at things from another direction: backwards.

FX artists are always discovering that the impossible isn’t so impossible if you do it backwards, using a technique known as reverse motion photography: in An American Werewolf in London, when filming the werewolf transformation scene, they discovered that it’s much easier to pull hair in through the prosthetic skin than it is to push it out. In Hellraiser, the birth of a corpse from a blood puddle was created by melting it into a puddle and running the film backwards. Go back to 1910, though, and you’ll find what must be one of the first uses of this technique.

The Edison Studios Frankenstein is only around twelve minutes long, and much of this is dedicated to the dramatic birth of the creature: here again, the effect was created by burning a model creature, and reversing the footage. It’s pretty rough (although you could argue that the resulting movement of the smoke downwards contributes to the sense of something unholy coming together), but nonetheless interesting to see the early use of an effect that would still be in use almost a century later.

And see it you can: this film is now in the public domain, and viewable at the Internet Archive, here: Edison’s Frankenstein.

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