Lost and Found


Not too long ago, I learned that an animated version of The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolken’s prequel to Lord of the Ring was found. This version is over 11 minutes long and dates from 1966. It was designed by Czech illustrator Adolf Born and was written and directed by Tom and Jerry animator Gene Deitch and you can watch it here:

As you can guess, this discovery got me thinking about other lost and found films. There are many films, most from the early days of motion pictures that have become lost, either through neglect, accident or the nitrates ate away at the film and there is nothing left to watch. There are also many films that were, and still are, languishing in a closet somewhere, only to be found when someone knocks something over or lifts up a box.  So, I have put together a list of some films that are lost and some films that were found.

Lost
The Story of the Kelly Gang
(1906)
This film tells the tale of Australia’s most famous criminal or “bushranger” Ned Kelly. Directed by Melbourne native Charles Tait, the film was a popular and critical success and lead to a succession of bushranger films. Soon these type of films were banned in several Australian states because they romanticized crime and criminals. Unfortunately, at the turn of the 20th century, studios didn’t realize the historical significance of saving a film, like The Story of the Kelly Gang. So, there was no procedure put in place to preserve these films for future generations, hence it became lost. Still, the film has not entirely disappeared. Nine minutes of footage was found in a deserted house in 1979 and just before the film’s 100th anniversary, Australia’s National Film and Sound Archive contacted archives around the world in regards to the film. As it turned out, the British Film Institute had an incomplete film labeled “Kelly Gang,” and it contained more footage of the film. While, it is far from complete, there was enough footage to get a feel for the film and that was added to a DVD of the film.

Humorisk (or Humor Risk) (1920s)
Would you believe that the Marx Brothers made a silent film? Yes, it is true. In fact, it was their first film and they played different characters to the ones that they became famous for. Reports are that Groucho didn’t like this film, so he purchased it and destroyed all prints and negatives. Ouch! That’s taking the killing of your darlings to extremes.

Catch My Soul (1974)
Conventional wisdom states that most of the films that became lost were from the early years of the 20th century. For the most part that’s true, the exception is Catch My Soul. This is a rock opera based on Shakespeare’s Othello and has folk singer Richie Haven as the lead. The film was directed by Patrick McGoohan, who was the lead actor in the famous television show of the 1960’s The Prisoner. The film got poor reviews and one critic said that it was “pricelessly funny” without meaning to be, since it was dramatic film. Wait, it gets worse. According to McGoohan, one of the producers found religion and added 15 minutes of religious material to the film. McGoohan didn’t like that and tried to have his name removed from the credits. The next year it was re-titled as Santa Fe Satan and then it disappeared. So, check your closets and attics, keep an eye open at flea markets and while checking out stuff on eBay, because a print of this film might show up in those places.

Found
Cléopâtre
  (1899)
No, this is not the one with Liz and Dick. This is a French film and the earliest horror film made. This film deals with the re-animated mummy of Cleopatra and the havoc she creates. It was thought to be lost until 2005 when a print of the film was found. So, now the French film canon includes more than just chain smokers who discuss the meaning of life in sidewalk cafes.

Richard III (1912)
This is a film adaptation of the Shakespeare play of the same name and is considered the oldest American feature film in existence. It featured the, then, famous actress Sarah Bernhardt. This film was thought lost until 1996 when a high quality print was found.

Metropolis  (1927)
This film wasn’t lost like the other films mentioned. Rather, after it’s premiere in Berlin, the film was cut from its original 153 minutes to 90 minutes. Restoration was done in 2001 with combined footage from several archives and that brought the film up to 124 minutes. That version was considered to be the most complete version until 2008 when a 16 mm negative was found in, of all places, Buenos Aires. This negative contained 25 minutes of lost footage. This footage was integrated with the 2001 version in 2010 and now the film is as close to director Fritz Lang’s original version of the film as possible.

The lost and found films mentioned in this blog entry demonstrate the importance of archiving films. After all, whether a film becomes a classic or a flop, it is part of the historical record of the studio that made it, so it needs to be saved for future generations. It also demonstrates the importance of keeping track of your own stuff. After all, if you lose your stamp, coin or baseball card collection, do you think the Smithsonian Institute will help you find it?

Of course, it you have any information about the lost films mentioned in this blog entry, please contact the following film archives: 

Australia
National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
McCoy Circuit, Acton ACT 2601
GPO Box 2002,Canberra ACT 2601
Email: enquiries@nfsa.gov.au
http://nfsa.gov.au

USA
National Film Preservation Board
Library of Congress (4690)
Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Division
101 Independence Avenue SE
Washington DC 20540
Attn: Steve Leggett, Staff Coordinator
Email: sleg@loc.gov
http://www.loc.gov/film/

The author would like to thank Gene Deitch for his assistance with this blog entry.

Sources:
http://www.movieweb.com/news/the-hobbit-long-lost-animated-short-discovered

http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-lists/9-famous-lost-films-that-have-been-rediscovered/

http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/70351

http://www.kino.com/metropolis/restoration.html#rest

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Responses to “Lost and Found”

  1. Jabbertyp3 Says:

    Leebo3…

    Fantastic blog post, saw on…

  2. Paket Umroh Says:

    many thanks to write article

  3. genedeitch Says:

    Aha. Well, the fact is that I have about a dozen lost or drowned films that I feel are deserving to be brought out of the closet and into the sunlight – films that I am still proud of as solutions to challenges I was face with.over the years of my long career.
    THE HOBBIT was brought out now because of the timeliness of the subject. Do you have a plan that promises revenue for such a venture? I have been preparing a look into my secret locker as part of my “Roll The Credits!” blog. Do you have a better proposal?

    Gene Deitch

    • Ilena Di Toro Says:

      Thanks for your assistance, for reading my blog and for your comments. As for revenue for THE HOBBIT, I wish I had some ideas for you. Still, it is a wonderful animated film and you should feel very proud of yourself for this and your other work. (I spent some of my misspent youth watching Tom and Jerry cartoons and I enjoyed them a lot.) Thanks again for your comments and for your help. I really appreciate it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: