Electrocuting an Elephant (1903)
Article 5632 by Dave Sindelar
Featuring Carl Goliath, Topsy
What it is: Unpleasant documentary.
Topsy the elephant is electrocuted.
One of the unexpected things I found myself contending with as a result of this movie-watching/review project was dealing with movies that someone considered as belonging to the fantastic genres but which, to my eyes, didn’t seem to fit; I often had to stretch my mind to conceive as to why someone would classify them as such, and I included those guesses in my reviews. For example, I never would have expected this silent short to qualify for my project, but someone on IMDB decided to classify this one as “horror”. Well, I will agree it’s horrifying, but that’s not quite the same thing. Still, I can understand someone making this classification.
Well, whether it qualifies or not, it is definitely an upsetting viewing experience, especially for animal lovers. I’ve heard the movie was made by Edison to demonstrate the dangers of alternating current. I’ve also heard the animal was electrocuted as a publicity stunt to promote Luna Park at Coney Island, and that the animal had become impossible to handle. It doesn’t matter to me which explanation is correct; it doesn’t change the fact that the movie is exploitation at its nastiest; it’s an elephant snuff film. Despite its historical value, I wouldn’t recommend this short to anyone.