This is a film taken of the execution of Topsy, an elephant employed to help build Luna Park on Coney Island. She had killed three men, including a drunken spectator who fed her a cigarette... See full summary »
This is a film taken of the execution of Topsy, an elephant employed to help build Luna Park on Coney Island. She had killed three men, including a drunken spectator who fed her a cigarette. Cyanide-laced carrots fed to her by park officials failed, and the ASPCA forbade a hanging. Thomas Edison, meanwhile, had been publicly killing dogs and cats with AC power to show that his DC power was more effective and less dangerous. Edison performed the execution of Topsy and captured it on film, though the brief short shows only the event, and not the background behind it. It makes a disturbing sight, particularly embedded in Errol Morris's Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.. Written by
Scott Andrew Hutchins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This vicious little film is horrendous. My low rating for it comes for two main reasons. The first is that it is an animal snuff film and I find that whole concept so vile it turns my stomach. Filmed over a hundred years ago, I can only hope that we've evolved into something a little more humane and compassionate. This film is complete and utter exploitation, made to cash in on the sensational aspects of the film and the subject. Historical interest aside, this is something to watch only if one finds themselves in the grip of morbid fascination.
Reason number two? Look at the way that the camera is set up. It is placed in the best possible location to fully capture the full effect: long march forward of the elephant, perfect view of the electrocution platform and a cold and clinically dispassionate viewpoint of the elephant with smoke coming out of it before it finally collapses. Sickening.
Thomas Edison did many great things for civilization and his talents and intelligence aren't in doubt. Nobody is perfect, but when you realize that this film provided A) an opportunity for him to trump early cinematic competitors with a sensationalist film of an elephant being electrocuted and B) he filmed the execution to demonstrate the greater effectiveness of DC as opposed to AC, you can't help but wonder if the scientist in him was a little TOO dispassionate and cold. Any number of Peter Cushing's mad scientists would be proud. The rest of us should be ashamed and revolted.
17 of 26 people found this review helpful.
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