Sunday, August 9, 2015


Formerly Lost Films

A nearly complete copy was found in Russia in a condensed featurized format formerly owned by famed silent Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein.  The feature is minus the spy material--evidently removed because it was considered propaganda.  Eisenstein was a huge fan of star Pearl White.  A newly restored copy was released on DVD May 25, 2015.  Only a couple of the original intact episodes are known to have survived.  Filmed in the "first Hollywood" Fort Lee, NJ, directed by George B. Seitz for Astra Film, distributed by the famous Pathé Fréres.  

A nearly complete copy of this 15 part serial directed by Aubrey M. Kennedy (who would go on to be a major studio executive at Goldwyn) was found in 2003 in the home of a former projectionist in Pennsylvania.  One reel was completely deteriorated, but most of the rest of series was there.  Curiously, the film had been edited by the projectionist himself to turn it into a continuous feature; so other parts of some episodes appear missing owed to their having been cut in the editing process.  This is just a theory.  Nonetheless, what was left was restorable and has been released on DVD, but is unavailable as of this writing.  This is remarkable for another historical reason, as it represents the earliest surviving film footage of Boris Karloff, who plays a Mexican in a bar in the 2nd episode.

For decades, Fritz Lang's Metropolis was the most famous partially lost film (and about 5% of the original uncut film is still missing).  Lang was insistent on his personal hand in editing the film to his desired length and a look--his Citizen Kane long before their WAS a Citizen Kane.  One of the major criticisms of the film upon it's release was that it was simply too long; which lead to efforts to cut it to lengths at theaters to a more acceptable running time.  This of course, incensed Lang; and also lead to the inevitable, that the original edit of the film would be lost to history.  Which, sure enough, it was.  That is, until 2008, when a well worn and damaged print of Lang's original cut of the film was discovered tucked away in a Museum in Argentina.  After two years of very slow and careful restoration, the restored print was returned to the silver screen on the 12th of February 2010 at simultaneous showings in Frankfurt and Berlin.  This film was later released on Blu Ray by Kino.  

Considered permanently lost, a copy was found in 1996 in, again, in Moscow by German film researchers that were searching Russian archives.  It was a deteriorated black and white copy, not an original nitrate (original nitrates in any condition are extremely rare!).  Curiously it had rushed new scenes added on and was renamed "Jerusalem's Storm."  A copy was successfully made, with scene corrections and re-tinting following the original tints from the 1920's.  In an very odd twist of fate, the proper corrections in scenes could be made because of detailed notes taken from German Censor's Archives, some of which reportedly included descriptions of "objectionable material" notes made by members of the Nazi party in Bavaria.  In that area, at the time, they had effectively had the film banned.  This one features the "in"famous actor Max Schreck, who is remembered now only as the vampire Count Orlok from Nosferatu (also from 1922).  Here he plays a templar.

Richard III (1912) IMDb

This was one of the most famously lost films in motion picture history!  Laments of it's loss to the world in it's entirety was written in numerous books on silent films in all aspects.  It's loss was early as well; it was reported permanently lost in 1922.  This again another story of a projectionist having a personal copy in their home.  A full print was discovered in the home a former Bluebird Theater projectionist William Buffum in Portland, Oregon--actually he donated his full nitrate (that's right NITRATE) copy of the film to the American Film Institute (it is unclear if he did, indeed, remember that he had the copy all along or not).  The AFI was able to successfully transfer the nitrate copy to a stable medium and retouched the tinting in the restoration process.  In June of 2001, Kino International released the film on DVD with a new soundtrack by famed film composer Ennio Morricone.  I have a blog post for a blogathon that I was privileged to be a participant in last year, that can be found here.  The film now represents the oldest surviving American feature length film and is thought to have been the world's first feature length film based on a Shakespeare play.

Victor Sjöström directed film from Sweden, that he starred in himself, was actually the very first film to be banned in Sweden.  The film was famously lost until 1979 when a copy was found in a archive somewhere in the U.S.  The film was restored and premiered in Stockholm on the 14th of October in 1980.


This Phil Rosen directed drama starred the like of Irene Rich and Clara Bow.  A print was discovered to have survived at Lobster Film in France.  No word on plans for restoration and release or screenings.

Considered another casualty of the infamous Fox Film fire, a copy of this lost anthology was discovered and is now in the considerable collection of films at the UCLA Film and Television Archive (note:  there isn't a great deal of information as to where the film turned up--it's possible that a copy had been at UCLA all along before someone rediscovered it there).  The film was directed by Charles Brabin, who was Theda Bara's husband.  It is a 3 part anthology that stars Estelle Taylor and Marc McDermott.  It's running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes.  As of this writing, it does not appear to have been released in any format for home viewing; but UCLA has screened it more than once.  

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