My film topic posted have now officially moved to Thursdays starting today. Enjoy!
Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is doing its Summer Under the Stars program this summer, which dedicates every day in August to showing movies strictly from one movie star each day. August 15th was Lon Chaney day and one of the films aired was the reconstruction of London After Midnight, which is one of the most sought after lost films. The only known surviving print burned in the 1967 MGM Studio Fire. As someone interested in film history, I had to check this out.
London After Midnight was reconstructed using more than 200 still photographs and a "complete continuity script" in 2002 (coinciding with the film's 75th anniversary) by filmmaker and archivist Rick Schmidlin. The film is considered to be one the "holy grails" of lost cinema for several reasons. First of all it starred Lon Chaney, the "man of a thousand faces" and was directed by Tod Browning who is most known for directing Dracula (1931) and Freaks (1932). The film was based on the Tod Browning original story, "The Hypnotist." December 17, 1927 was the premiere date for London After Midnight. Even though the film did well financially, critical reception at the time was mixed. Lon Chaney made ten movies with director Tod Browning and London After Midnight was the pair's highest grossing film. Below is a picture of Browning.
London After Midnight was also the first American vampire film and influential on the imagery of vampires in popular culture (creepy eyes and teeth, plus a cape). One of the most interesting stories about this film is that in 1928 a man accused of murdering a woman in Hyde Park, London used the film as part of his defense. He claimed that Lon Chaney's performance drove him to temporary insanity. However, his excuse did not hold up in court as he was still convicted of the crime.
This reconstruction is almost like reading a comic book since we have still images and text, although obviously music was added. Being a silent film is advantageous to doing this type of reconstruction. With a sound film I'm not even sure how something like this could be done. Would you hire new actors to dub lines? At that point you are basically re-making the movie to some extent.
This is a fascinating re-creation of a film that is most likely (although hopefully not) lost to time and may be as close as we will ever get to the original. I know that there have been reconstructions of other lost films but I wonder if any of those films have eventually been found. If you have seen a reconstruction of this or any other lost film please let me know your thoughts in the comments section. If London After Midnight is ever found it would be interesting to compare the original with the reconstruction to see how close it came.
See the Reconstruction here at google video!
Come back Sunday for the weekly wrap-up!