The sole surviving print of the Thomas Edison-produced Frankenstein has been restored by the Library of Congress and made available for viewing free online.
Produced in 1910, the film is believed to be the first horror film ever made. Thought to have been long lost in 1980 when the American Film Institute placed the title on their “Top 10 most wanted lost films,” a copy actually resided in the collection of eccentric film collector Alois F “Al” Dettlaff, who acquired a print in the 1950s as part of a larger collection of films. Zealously guarding the print, Dettlaff would occasionally take it to screen at film festivals and fan conventions for exhibition. He turned down an offer from Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Robert Wise in 1986 to have the film properly preserved and archived.
(You can ready more about Frankenstein’s production and history in this piece we presented several years back.)
Eventually, Dettloff had Frankenstein transferred, warts and all, to DVD, which became the source of the many versions of the film currently available on YouTube.
Dettlaff died in 2005, and the Library of Congress purchased his entire collection in 2014.
Once in its possession, the Library had the reel scanned for a 2K digital print prior to photochemical preservation of the physical copy. The 2K scan was subject to digital cleanup and restoration. As part of the digital restoration, the Library added back the film’s head critics at the beginning and recreated one missing intertitle. Composer Donald Sosin was brought in to create a new score for the film.