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You can now watch the newly restored first film version of Frankenstein

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Mike Mashon, head of the Moving Image Section of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division of the Library of Congress, recently shared an article detailing how they had restored the first-ever film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

The film was made in 1910 and the Library’s Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation got hold of the sole surviving nitrate print of the film. It had been a difficult one to get hold of as Mashon explains.

The print also comes with a bit of notoriety because of its previous owner: Alois F. “Al” Dettlaff of Cudahy, Wisconsin. He acquired the print as part of a larger collection in the 1950s, but he wasn’t aware of the film’s significance until the American Film Institute included “Frankenstein” on a list of “top 10 most wanted lost films” in 1980.

I never met Dettlaff, but it seems like everyone in film collecting circles has a story. Often they’re about the “Father Time” character he enjoyed portraying at film conventions, complete with robe, scythe and hourglass to complement his long white beard.

He was exceptionally protective of the “Frankenstein” print, travelling with it to film festivals and monster conventions. He even took it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1986, where academy president and famed director Robert Wise was unable to convince him to let the reel be properly preserved and archived. Eventually, Dettlaff had the film transferred to DVDs he would sell at his appearances, and it’s rips from that DVD you can find on YouTube. Dettlaff died at home in 2005 surrounded by his film collection, including “Frankenstein,” still unpreserved.

Check out the film below or head on over to The Library of Congress Blog.

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