Charles Ogle and the first Frankenstein 1910 REVIEW

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Charles Ogle in Edison's Frankenstein 1910
Charles Ogle in Edison’s Frankenstein (1910)

TITLE: Frankenstein
DIRECTOR: J. Searle Dawley
CAST: Augustus Phillips, Charles Ogle and Mary Fuller

PLOT: Frankenstein, a young medical student, attempts to create the perfect human being but instead, creates a monster! Film made by the Edison Company.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Wait until at least your third year in medical school before attempting to play God
FUN FACT: First-ever Frankenstein film was considered “lost”. A print was bought by a film collector in the 1950s, who was not aware of its rarity until decades later.
140-CHARACTER MINI REVIEW: Charles Ogle is a large, scary Monster – much of the film doesn’t make a lot of sense.

THE photograph above of Charles Ogle, the first movie Frankenstein Monster, is famous.

Clearly not as iconic as Boris Karloff’s flat-top monster from Frankenstein (1931) but certainly well-known to anyone who has ever read a history of horror films.

Having said that, Frankenstein (1910), produced by the Edison Company at a time when film was in its infancy, is probably not a film many horror film fans have actually seen.

Up until recent years, the silent classic was scarce.

In fact, Frankenstein (1910) was considered by the American Film Institute as late as 1980 as one of its top 10 most “Culturally and historically significant lost films”.

Fortunately, a US film buff Alois Dettaff (read about him here) discovered the only remaining print in his collection in the 1960s but didn’t realise its value until 20 years later.

Even then, he guarded the print and showed it rarely. The film, which is in the public domain, can be found on the internet, including YouTube with the link at the bottom of this article.

Frankenstein (1910) is a strange film. A lot of it doesn’t make sense and it is probably the most animalistic version of the Mary Shelley classic film I have seen.

Charles Ogle’s angry monster is a brute who seeks to destroy his creator as soon as he is “born”. There is little explanation for his or any other character in the short 12-minute film.

As a teenager absorbing every word of books like Alan Frank’s The Horror Film Handbook, I was intrigued by the odd-looking Ogle. It is a bit like knowing that before Judy Garland didn’t star in the first version of The Wizard of Oz. Before Boris Karloff’s flat top there was this Charles Ogle crazy-looking monster.

Who was Charles Ogle?

Charles Ogle (1865-1940) was a prolific silent film actor, who made 298 film appearances. He appeared in films such as A Christmas Carol (as Bob Cratchit) and the first film serial What Happened to Mary (1912). He made his last film in 1926 and he is best known for his portrayal of the first Frankenstein monster.

In my view, Christopher Lee or maybe Robert De Niro’s monsters have been the most realistic. The idea that Jack Pierce gives for chopping the top of the monster’s head and putting on back like a lid is fine. But why is it square and not round like the dome of the skull?

Also, the monster would be unlikely to be aggressive. He would be sore for one thing.

I have had teeth taken out at the dentist where I’ve been sore for days. Imagine waking up and having new arms, legs, eyes, a new brain, etc – that is going to hurt.

In fact, unless the Monster was topped up on morphine, it is likely he would be crawling around the floor in agony.

Frankenstein 1910 Magazine

Actor Charles Ogle with crazy eyes covered in hair – kind of like the creature in Hammer’s Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell – is quite confronting.

So as much as Charles Ogle’s monster is nothing like we are used to, it is probably just as legitimate as Jack Pierce’s famous flat-top Frankie.

The only question being: Why does he have so much hair – did Dr Frankenstein (who in this film is only a medical student so therefore not a Doctor) splice in a dog or a cat on the creature’s noggin?

Watch Frankenstein 1910 with Charles Ogle


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