Monster of the Day #33

The first man-made monster*…the first sympathetic monster…the first slasher killer…the first monster undone by falling in love with his victim-to-be…

The first mad scientist…the first authority figure figure who turned an innocent placed in his charge into a murderous automaton to achieve his own ends…

Which, really, is really cinema’s first monster?

[*I’m not counting Edison’s short, I mean full-length movies.]
  • BeckoningChasm

    I’d vote for either Cesare here or maybe the robot from Metropolis, but I’m not sure which was first.

  • How about the ogre in Melie’s Conquest of the Pole?

  • John Nowak

    Oh, what a wonderful film that was. You’d never think that a character named “Cesare the Somnambulist” would be frightening.

    It’s great to see some silent film love.

  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari 1920
    Nosferatu 1922
    Metropolis 1927

    Was the ogre what Conquest of the Pole was centered on? That’s sort of what I was going for.

    I have reviewed silent films in the past, such as Dr. Mabuse the Gambler and a Video Cheese on Les Vampires.

  • KeithB

    Wasn’t there a movie about a golem in there somewhere?

  • The Rev. D.D.

    The Golem came out in 1914; The Golem and the Chorus Girl, a sequel of sorts (although from what I understand, it’s a comedy), came out a couple of years later; and probably the world’s first prequel, The Golem: How He Came Into the World, came out not long after Caligari.

    So, the Golem would, I think, be the first movie monster (again, talking full-length movies).

  • Two, actually. One from 1915 lasted an hour and basically, as I understand it, doesn’t exist anymore. And then the 1920 version starring Paul Wegener. Not was good of a movie as Caligari by any mean, but you are correct, certainly a strong contender for first movie monster.

  • Conquest of the Pole (1912) has a huge icicle-bearded giant emerge from the NOrth Pole and eat one of the explorers. It’s a pretty spectacular effect. The movie was only 20 minutes long though so maybe Ken won’t count it as the first “full-length” movie monster. But of course who know what “full length” meant, in 1912.


  • John Nowak

    Silent film history can be baffling. For a long time, scholars were baffled by a lost, 15 second-long film titled Frankenstein’s Trestle, made in 1899. For a while it appeared in books as the first Frankenstein movie, despite the odd title and a

    My understanding is that it turned out to be a film of a train crossing the then-new bridge at Frankenstein Cliff in New Hampshire.

  • Rock Baker

    I have a fair number of silent films in my library, but this one never made it my way. I hope this doesn’t mean I have to turn in my Life-Long Monster-Movie Fan Official Membership Card!

    When was the first film treatment of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? I’ve always assumed that the first monster feature was a version of that story. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always had that impression.

  • actually Edison’s Frankenstein has elements of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde in it. You can find the whole movie on Youtube in 10 minute segments, and it is worth catching. I particularly like the monster’s creation scene, realized by burning a model to bits and then running the film backwards.

  • John Nowak

    Thanks for the tip, Mr. Peterson — I’ve been hoping someone would put the Edison Frankenstein on DVD or download or something for a while, now…

  • John Nowak

    There’s a John Barrymore version of Jekyll & Hyde from 1920. I rather like it, but it’s not one of my favorites.

  • KeithB

    Liz Kingsley, et al, had a good treatment of the various Jekyll and Hyde films a while back. I would provide linky but I can’t get on her site right now.

  • I really like the Barrymore Jekyll and Hyde – it might even be my favorite (it’s between that and March’s).

    The Barrymore Hyde is outstanding – he actually bites a guy’s neck when attacking him. He is more rat-like than apish which I think is more revolting, and of course there is the dream sequence.

    Supposedly there are a few pre-WW 1 Jekyll & Hyde films which survive though I have not seen them. They’re probably only 15 minutes long or something though.

  • John Nowak

    >He is more rat-like than apish which I think is more revolting…

    Also more in keeping with the original novel. The fact that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person is a twist ending.

    I understand that the original Terminator film went through a similar change during the genesis of the project, when they made Armold the robot instead of Lance Henriksen. That turned the Terminator from “Creepy” to “Human Bulldozer.”

    I just think it’s amusing that there was a time when people involved in the film could look at one another, blink slowly, and say “Schwarzenegger as the Terminator? I just don’t see it…”

  • Rock Baker

    Sandy, thanks for the head’s up about Frankenstein 1910 being on YouTube. I just watched it (first time I’d seen the whole film) and I’m glad I did. You’re right, it does seem more in line with Jekyll and Hyde than the Frankenstein story. The monster’s creation being a chemical reaction rather than an operation moves it into that direction in a big way. (And am I right in thinking that the monster in this version was not a real being but a figment of Frankesntein’s own mind? His beastial Hyde-like bad side released by his almost mystical experiments?) The scene with the monster poking out from the curtains is dynamite spook stuff!