Countdown to Halloween, Unsung Heroes of Horror Day 30: Robert Thomae (probably) Horror’s FIRST EVER on-screen victim (1895)

Thomas Edison is pretty damn important to horror, his company is responsible for the invention of the motion picture camera, the electric chair, and (what many believe to be) the world’s first ever example of horror-cinema, an 18 second short called The Execution of Mary Stuart (1895). Not only is this (again probably) film’s first example of jump-cut editing and special effects, it’s also (almost certainly) the first example of on-screen murder and therein horror’s first ever victim. Mary Stuart (played by male actor Robert Thomae, in keeping with Shakespearian tradition) walks up to the chopping block, kneels over, and (here comes that jump cut) BAM the executioners axe falls and Mary (now replaced by a mannequin) loses her head. It’s genuinely awesome and as macabre as anything you’d see right up to modern horror standards. In these pre-cinema-censorship times a head is seen severed and held aloft as a trophie. You couldn’t have show that kind of detail in a Hollywood feature right up until the 60s/70s and then there would be social outrage. So take note and be proud of your first horror victim, Robert Thomae!

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