IMDb > Electrocuting an Elephant (1903) > Reviews & Ratings - IMDb

Reviews & Ratings for
Electrocuting an Elephant More at IMDbPro »

Write review
Filter: Hide Spoilers:
Page 2 of 4:[1] [2] [3] [4] [Next]
Index 31 reviews in total 

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Absolutely disgusting

Author: keithdrac from Pitman, New Jersey, USA
17 July 2013

This movie is the worst. It was created by "inventor" Thomas A. Edison. All of his "inventions" where either stolen from other people or done mostly by his workers. Thomas Edison's rival was Nikola Tesla, who invented the alternating current that we use today. Unlike Edison, Tesla was an actual genius who did his own work. To cut a long story short, Edison used some dirty tactics to scare people away from using the AC. This film is an example. He often electrocuted innocent dogs and cats, but he didn't think that that was enough. He decided to electrocute a circus elephant! It is so disturbing to see the innocent creature slowly die from the electrocution. All because Edison wanted to scare people away from Tesla. Edison was a horrible person and Tesla is the one who deserves to be honoured. Avoid at all costs!

Was the above review useful to you?

like Bambi vs Godzilla if was crossed with the holocaust

Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
1 May 2016

Now here is some bad storytelling. This is one minute long - sure it's 1903, literally, but still - and we get barely any head up, just two shots: one of an elephant, bound with some wraps, coming up to the camera, and then the next shot the elephant gets electrocuted and falls over to his/her side. Dead. Who committed to this? Why did no one step in, like the police or possibly (if it existed) 1903's version of PETA? And what was Thomas Edison doing there filming it, for posterity? Why didn't he come with a script prepared and some stakes? Where's the three act structure here? Even for a documentary this is poor work.

OK, so that's no very funny, I know. I think it's all I can do to try and mask the fact that I just watched an elephant get electrocuted. It's a purposeless act, but I haven't read the history on it so perhaps there was some context that was there. Maybe the elephant was old or sick and it came from the circus and it was time to set the elephant out to pasture? No, it looks relatively healthy, and as it stands there in poise before the electroshocks happen it seems content enough.

Seriously, I have no idea if it was Edison's notion to shock the elephant, and I'd assume it wasn't (I looked it up and it wasn't his exactly, the elephant would've been killed anyway for killing a couple of people). But the fact is he documented it not for himself but for others to view, and it comes down to one of two things: anthropological purposes (that we see this horrible act for future generations to see and to be horrified by so that we further appreciate the life around us) or, most likely, to gain some public blood-thirst (or again to publicize his electricity, which sounds and is about right). These were the primitive days of cinema, when movies played very quickly, probably at some of the same circuses (or at least in that carnival atmosphere, and to audiences who's attention was brief before going on to this or that.

How did people react then? I'd be curious to see if they were mortified or found it somehow, some way, entertaining. I'd sincerely hope not the latter, and it suddenly occurs to be the irony that it was because of Edison creating electricity that this could be a possibility to start with. It IS a part of history and in the context it was set in I know I should give it a pass. But in the 21st century, after so many decades where elephants have been decimated and Dumbo has become the example of elephants in cinema, it's really shocking (no pun intended).

I don't know if this should even get a rating, but it does here.

Was the above review useful to you?

Wrong for all kinds of reasons

Author: Thomas ( from Berlin, Germany
21 July 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a black-and-white short film from 1903 and it shows us exactly what the title says. For two thirds of this very short film (roughly 45 seconds) we only see how Topsy is taken to the place where she got killed. And in the end, we see the actual electrocution. This is an absolutely inhumane video and I hope Edison was ashamed for filming this, even if he obviously did not order the killing. This film is a definite contender for worst silent film of all time. Maybe you could even cut the "silent". Quite an achievement for such a short movie. Cruel, no value in terms of film, nothing. This should never have been made and I am actually glad that this did not become a common trend among filmmakers back in the day. I thing I saw some bullfighting and cockfighting, but that was pretty much it. Hughly not recommend, especially if you are sensitive when it comes to violence against animals.

Was the above review useful to you?

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Exploitation 1903 Style

Author: Michael_Elliott from Louisville, KY
24 May 2012

Electrocuting an Elephant (1903)

Edison made thousands of films in his career but this here is perhaps his most notorious. The elephant Topsy was a performer at Luna Park on Coney Island and after killing her third person she was sentenced to death. Edison, being a businessman, wanted to film her electrocution and the end result is this movie lasting under a minute. There's really not too much to be said with this film without entering the debate field. People complain about the violence towards the animal but from everything I've read this is how they were handled back in the day and apparently many places still use this form of death. I think the biggest problem is that Edison would want to film it in order to make money. I can certainly see why people would be offended by this today but apparently those in 1903 were okay with it as apparently this film made quite a bit of money. On a technical level there's certainly nothing impressive about it and today it will just be viewed for a form of exploitation.

Was the above review useful to you?

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

...And They Created A Monster But I'm Not Talking About the Elephant!

Author: Rodrigo Amaro ( from São Paulo, Brazil
1 May 2010

This is one of those old films that I even know it existed until the day I make a strange research on internet about filmed deaths, and the execution of Topsy, an elephant, happened to be one of the oldest executions captured by a camera. Today you can watch and complain that the film it's almost not watchable because of it's theme and because it's very difficult to see something, the movie is too old.

But what Thomas Edison were thinking in filming such atrocity? First, let me explain what this short is about. Topsy was a domesticated elephant with the Forepaugh Circus at Coney Island's and she killed three men. Fearing that Topsy would be a threat to everybody a bunch of people decided to execute her, but they wanted to do it in the harmless possible way. So, they opted for the electrocution. The rest become this movie, not much impacting nowadays but it created something more horrible than everything you can think of.

The mankind didn't evolved after this movie, it only went downhill in every single aspect of its capacity of destruction. I mean, after this movie it seemed that animal killing was allowed and many so-called filmmakers started to film horrific acts of violence towards animals. Hollywood movies, Foreign movies, documentaries, and sometimes even in the news you can see things like that. I really think that this film pointed the way on how human race would follow. The recent images of today's films are far more shocking than Edison's film. For instance, the documentary "Death on a Factory Farm" has unspeakable scenes (OK, it was a denounce against farmers who are animal abusers and it was used in a trial to convict such people), or the infamous horror movie "Cannibal Holocaust" who featured several unnecessary animal deaths (By the way, except for that scenes, this is an incredible and great horror movie). There are more disgusting and shocking and gratuity examples of that.

Even for not being so striking now, it's almost impossible not fell sorry for the poor elephant, a human being that just wanted to live. Now: it's a bad movie or it's good movie? Well, I don't have a opinion formed about it except that it was a unnecessary waste of time for Edison and the people who helped making this short. To me it was just an experience in seeing a movie made in 1903 and see how things were in that time. Have we changed? Think about it!

Was the above review useful to you?

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Horror Movie

Author: JoeytheBrit from
4 May 2009

The story behind how this film came to be made has been covered by other reviewers so I won't bother going over it again. Suffice to say, any normal human being will be repulsed by what they see on this short and badly deteriorated film. The elephant whose execution we witness was apparently a killer of men, but that doesn't really justify her electrocution. She's docile enough as she's led to her death, suggesting she's no rogue. Despite the graininess of the picture, the viewer can easily identify the moment the poor animal is zapped by the way her huge body stiffens. A second later, smoke rises from around her feet and a few seconds after that she topples to the ground. That's entertainment, folks.

Was the above review useful to you?

5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

RIP Topsy

Author: ackstasis from Australia
7 May 2007

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?

Was the above review useful to you?

10 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

A glorification of the lowest facet of humanity.

Author: rooprect from New York City
6 July 2006

We see Thomas Edison, with a glowing smile on his face, trying to electrocute a 5 ton living being. Eventually he was successful, and so the first animal snuff film is born, cleverly disguised as an amazing achievement in technology. This is scientific arrogance at it's worst, folks. It ranks up there with the doctor who decapitated a monkey just to prove that he could keep its severed head alive for 22 minutes.

Oh yes, there's the absurd excuse that the elephant had been convicted of "murder" and sentenced to death, and that this was a fair and humane "execution". To all the people who are satisfied with this sophistry, please form a line on my right. I'm going to give you all a big collective Three Stooges slap across the head.

Go watch "The Advocate" (1993), a movie based on the true story murder trial of a pig in Mideval France. 500 years later, humans are still a bunch of morons I see.

What's next? We arrest birds for stealing our blueberries? Arrest pricker bushes for assault and battery? Thomas Edison, I hope you have a big fat worm crawling through your eye socket right now. Oh wait, that would be trespassing, wouldn't it? lol

Was the above review useful to you?

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:


Author: hbh11
5 August 2014

As an insight into the time (1903), this has some interest;the story is horrifying. Basically the execution of the elephant who had been systematically abused by her handlers and finally killed one, was taken on by Edison and turned into a publicity stunt in an attempt to discredit Westinghouse's electrical delivery system (a/c). Edison was not responsible for the decision to execute the elephant, he merely capitalized on it. It shows what lengths an ugly, uncreative, limited man will go to further his agenda, in this case, further enrich himself by attempting to discredit his rivals. Edison's ambition far outstripped his creativity, and his real genius was in the theft of other's ideas so as to profit from them. This film is a perfect image of the exploitation of nature and the horrors that arise from that. Everybody involved was a moral criminal and should be judged by their actions. It's interesting that Edison would provide a perfect document of his moral paucity as well as the extreme ugliness of the time.

Was the above review useful to you?

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

I was disgusted

Author: ThisFreakIsAlive
12 June 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When i seen this clip i wondered if it was real , once i researched it an found out that it was . What made me mad was that because the elephant killed the trainer because he was abusive to her, she was then punished for it by being electrocuted. Now in them days the American society for prevention of animal cruelty to animals didn't want the elephant to be hanged but found it OK to electrocute it instead, an lace it with potassium cyanide. We are the only species on this planet of causing such cruelty, of electrocution, murder, rape , war etc....more and more things like this just makes me disgusted an clearly Edison enjoyed and made money out of. This shows greed for money on Edison's part. Even in todays they put animals down because there meant to be "violent" what people don't understand we are the ones "humans" that make animals violent, you look at clip of explorers going near wild animals, which then are shocked that the animals attacked.Well if you go into animals territory where they feel threatened the will attack to protect themselves and there young. S o it was no surprise when i read that the elephant attacked and killed 3 people because no doubt she was provoked. I just thought if he wanted to make his invention of electricity popular then why kill for it, very sad and sick.

Was the above review useful to you?

Page 2 of 4:[1] [2] [3] [4] [Next]

Add another review

Related Links

Plot summary Ratings External reviews
Parents Guide Plot keywords Main details
Your user reviews Your vote history