MOVIEmeter
SEE RANK
Up 1,084 this week

Electrocuting an Elephant (1903)

3.4
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 3.4/10 from 862 users  
Reviews: 28 user | 1 critic

The execution of Topsy, a female elephant, in a publicity stunt advertising the opening of Luna Park on Coney Island. Topsy was originally owned by Forepaugh Circus where she killed a ... See full summary »

0Check in
0Share...

Editors' Spotlight

IMDb Picks: March

IMDb's editors share the movies and TV shows they are excited to see in March.

User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 1896 titles
created 15 Nov 2011
 
a list of 2167 titles
created 01 Jan 2012
 
a list of 6189 titles
created 19 Sep 2013
 
a list of 192 titles
created 4 months ago
 
a list of 34 titles
created 1 month ago
 

Related Items

Connect with IMDb


Share this Rating

Title: Electrocuting an Elephant (1903)

Electrocuting an Elephant (1903) on IMDb 3.4/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of Electrocuting an Elephant.
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Short | Action
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Porter's sequential continuity editing links several shots to form a narrative of firemen responding to a house fire. They leave the station with their horse drawn pumper, arrive on the ... See full summary »

Directors: George S. Fleming, Edwin S. Porter
Stars: Vivian Vaughan, Arthur White, James H. White
Documentary | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A group of people are standing in a straight line along the platform of a railway station, waiting for a train, which is seen coming at some distance. When the train stops at the platform, ... See full summary »

Directors: Auguste Lumière, Louis Lumière
Short | Adventure | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Using every known means of transportation, several savants from the Geographic Society undertake a journey through the Alps to the Sun which finishes under the sea.

Director: Georges Méliès
Stars: Georges Méliès
Comedy | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

A woman being fitted for shoes exposes her ankle to the shoe clerk, who is intrigued. He kisses her, but her chaperone hits him with her umbrella.

Director: Edwin S. Porter
Stars: Edward Boulden
Short | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A chemist in his laboratory places upon a table his own head, alive; then fixing upon his head a rubber tube with a pair of bellows, he begins to blow with all his might. Immediately the ... See full summary »

Director: Georges Méliès
Stars: Georges Méliès
Comedy | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A man, objecting to being filmed, comes closer and closer to the camera lens until his mouth is all we see. Then he opens wide and swallows camera and cinematographer. He steps back, chews, and grins.

Director: James Williamson
Stars: Sam Dalton
The Kiss (1896)
Short | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

Two people kiss.

Director: William Heise
Stars: May Irwin, John C. Rice
Short | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A demonic magician attempts to perform his act in a strange grotto, but is confronted by a Good Spirit who opposes him.

Directors: Segundo de Chomón, Ferdinand Zecca
Comedy | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A gardener is watering his flowers, when a mischievous boy sneaks up behind his back, and puts a foot on the water hose. The gardener is surprised, and looks into the nozzle to find out why... See full summary »

Director: Louis Lumière
Stars: François Clerc, Benoît Duval
Documentary | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A man opens the big gates to the Lumière factory. Through the gateway and a smaller doorway beside it, workers are streaming out, turning either left or right. Most of them are women in ... See full summary »

Director: Louis Lumière
Fantasy | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

Alice dozes in a garden, awakened by a dithering white rabbit in waistcoat with pocket watch. She follows him down a hole and finds herself in a hall of many doors. A key opens a small door... See full summary »

Directors: Cecil M. Hepworth, Percy Stow
Stars: May Clark, Cecil M. Hepworth, Blair
Short | Comedy | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

The leader of a marching band demonstrates an unusual way of writing music.

Director: Georges Méliès
Stars: Georges Méliès
Edit

Cast

Credited cast:
Topsy ...
Herself
Edit

Storyline

The execution of Topsy, a female elephant, in a publicity stunt advertising the opening of Luna Park on Coney Island. Topsy was originally owned by Forepaugh Circus where she killed a drunken spectator who burned the tip of her trunk with a cigar. She was sold to Sea Lion Park in 1902 which was then sold to new owners who turned it into Luna Park. After they decided they could no longer handle her, the owners of Luna Park announced they would hang Topsy, leading to an outcry by the ASPCA. The owners then decided they would electrocute the elephant, with a backup plan of feeding her cyanide-laced carrots and strangling her with a cable. Written by Rob O

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary | Short

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Country:

Release Date:

12 January 1903 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Electrocution of an Elephant  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

This may have been the first death ever capture on film. See more »

Connections

Featured in S&man (2006) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
RIP Topsy
7 May 2007 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

Now here is a fascinating little film from the archives of Thomas A. Edison. 'Electrocuting an Elephant' is sure to arouse highly conflicting feelings among different audiences. Some people see it as absolutely despicable, the equivalent of an "animal snuff film" and an indicator of how loathsome the human race actually is. Others may see it as a glorious demonstration of the power of Alternating Current electricity, an invention that has since revolutionised life as we know it (though this definitely wasn't what Edison had intended). The film-goers among us may view 'Electrocuting an Elephant' as a fascinating cinematic curiosity from the early twentieth century, and a testament to film's ability to incite powerful emotions. I, myself, am unsure how exactly to approach this film – in any case, no verdict may be reached until we know all the facts.

Topsy the elephant was born around 1875. She was a domestic animal with the Forepaugh Circus at Coney Island's Luna Park, measuring ten feet in height and 19 feet 11 inches in length. Over a three year period, Topsy killed three men – two of her keepers in Texas, and a third abusive trainer who tried to feed her a lit cigarette. She was then deemed an unacceptable threat to humans and sentenced to be put down, or "executed," if you were so inclined. Thomas Edison, who had been looking for a means to discredit AC electricity – which had been stealing the market for his DC electricity – suggested that Topsy be electrocuted, and he was able to convince the ASPCA that it would be a humane death.

On January 4 1903, after being fed carrots laced with 460 grams of potassium cyanide, Topsy was led to her execution. A hawser (a heavy rope) was place around her neck, one end attached to a "donkey engine" and the other to a post. Wooden sandals lined with copper were attached to her feet, and these were connected by a copper wire to the Edison electric light plant. It took 6600 volts of electricity less than one minute to kill her, and 'Electrocuting an Elephant' captures every uncomfortable moment of it. Is this an entertaining film? Most certainly not. But, at the same time, isn't it all just incredibly interesting?


5 of 9 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
BACK OFF. GrEmLiN-X
It wasn't Edison's idea to kill Topsy.... stokepogue2001
I was horrified by this film Localfreak
murder on film ttommy90
Discuss Electrocuting an Elephant (1903) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page