Thomas Edison ‘Frankenstein’ 1910 owner Alois F. Dettlaff found dead
Alois F. Dettlaff, the film archivist responsible for preserving the only surviving print of Thomas Edison’s 1910 film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, was found dead in the bathroom of his home in Cudahy, Wisconsin, on July 26. (Image: Charles Ogle as the Monster in the 1910 Frankenstein.)
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Dettlaff’s body was badly decomposed; his daughter and son-in-law lived across the street from him, but they had not seen him in more than a month. Dettlaff, who was obsessively protective of his copy of Frankenstein, was described by his son-in-law as bitter and reclusive.
The 15-minute Frankenstein, produced by Thomas Edison’s Edison Manufacturing Company and directed by J. Searle Dawley, had in the key roles Mary Fuller (as Elizabeth), Augustus Phillips (as Dr. Frankenstein), and Charles Ogle (as the Monster).
Edison’s Frankenstein was thought lost until the mid-’70s, when Dettlaff announced he owned a copy. Much to the irritation and frustration of film lovers and historians, the discovery didn’t lead to many screenings, for Dettlaff feared that the film – already in the public domain – was going to be bootlegged.
Thomas Edison & the Motion Picture Patents Company
Thomas Edison, by the way, was also rabidly jealous of his company’s products. Edison, in fact, was a founder of the Motion Picture Patents Company (a.k.a. the Edison Trust), which did its utmost to stifle competition from independent movie producers and distributors by controlling the use of film stock and accessories. Edison’s efforts notwithstanding, his company became obsolete in less than a decade as the MPPC turned out to be a dismal failure.
Hollywood, far away from Edison’s New Jersey base (and quite close to the Mexican border in case of problems with U.S. patent laws), was a key culprit.
‘The High and the Mighty’ Collector’s Edition DVD
Long unavailable due to rights disputes, the 1954 airplane adventure drama The High and the Mighty has finally come out on DVD. A two-disc Collector’s Edition of The High and the Mighty was released on August 2 by Paramount Home Video.
Adapted by Ernest K. Gann from his own novel, The High and the Mighty is a sort of Grand Hotel on wings. This tale of a Trans-Pacific airliner that suffers engine trouble along the way was directed by William A. Wellman (whose Wings was the first film to win a “Best Production” Academy Award), and stars John Wayne, Robert Stack, Claire Trevor, Jan Sterling, Laraine Day, Robert Newton, Paul Kelly, John Qualen, Phil Harris, David Brian, Julie Bishop, and Regis Toomey.
One of the biggest hits of 1954, The High and the Mighty was nominated for six Academy Awards: Best direction (William Wellman), best supporting actress (Jan Sterling, Claire Trevor), best film editing (Ralph Dawson), best original song (“The High and the Mighty”, music by Dimitri Tiomkin, lyrics by Ned Washington), and best original dramatic/comedy score (Dimitri Tiomkin). Only Tiomkin took home the statuette for the film’s score.
Wellman was also nominated for a Director’s Guild Award, while Jan Sterling, perhaps the best trashy blonde of the 1950s, won a best supporting actress Golden Globe.
Region 1 DVD (Canada / U.S. / U.S. territories) release date: August 2, 2005
- Number of discs: 2
- Picture: Anamorphic widescreen – 2.35:1
- Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0
- Available subtitles: English
- Disc One:
- Introduction by Leonard Maltin
- Commentary by Leonard Maltin, William
Wellman, Jr., Karen Sharpe, Pedro
Gonzales-Gonzales and aviation expert Vincent
- Disc Two:
- Introduction by Leonard Maltin
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Trailer
- Batjac Montage
- The High and the Mighty Premiere Footage
- Photo Gallery
- The following featurettes:
- The Batjac Story
- Stories from the Set
- On Director William A. Wellman
- The Music and World of Dimitri Tiomkin
- Restoring a Classic
- A Place in Film History
- Ernest K. Gann: Adventurer, Author, Artist
- Flying in the Fifties
List price: US$19.99. (At Amazon: US$13.99.) Prices subject
A Paramount Home Video release.
Have the DVD ordered from that source: Graveyard Records. It was obtainable several years ago.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason one can’t see the pic, John… “Unsupported file,” acc. to Disqus. :( But thanks for the comment & the link.
Wow! I didn’t know this. I’m FB friends with Fred Wiebel who knew that fellow and wrote a book on the film. You can find info about that here: fright.com/edge/EdisonsFrankenstein.htm
This is a photo of him when I first met him at a Monster Bash Con in 1997. uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9363fb4334ce6740ea69a0951be780d5d39132aa5cd0a563fe28f10aaa673b75.jpg
FYI — YouTube has the original in 2 parts on their website and thee are several utilities to allow you to download the parts and other utilities that allow you to join them then convert them to any format you want. A word of warning, though, it will best be viewed at 640×400 resolution or lower.
While it is indeed a tragedy for the passing of a noted film collector like Mr. Alois Felix Dettlaff, it should be noted that anyone desiring to obtain a copy of Edison’s 1910 version of Frankenstein will be unpleasantly disappointed in the taking of their money, and no DVD to be seen. I myself had ordered a copy, and after 5 months had discovered that my check had been cashed- but no DVD to be seen.