Alois F. Dettlaff, 84, the film archivist responsible for preserving the sole extant print of Thomas Edison’s 1910 film adaptation of Frankenstein, has passed away. According to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Dettlaff’s badly decomposed body was found by police lying in the bathroom of his home in Cudahy, Wisconsin, on July 26. Dettlaff’s daughter and son-in-law lived across the street from him, but had not seen him in over a month; the Journal Sentinel stated Dettlaff’s son-in-law described him as bitter and reclusive, hence the lack of contact despite their close proximity.
The Edison version of “Frankenstein” was the first film based on the Mary Shelley classic. It was considered lost for many decades until the mid-1970s when Dettlaff made it known he had a copy in his private collection. To the frustration of many film scholars and horror fans, Dettlaff rarely allowed the 15-minute “Frankenstein” to be made freely available for public screening (the film was a public domain title and Dettlaff feared bootlegging of the sought-after flick).