With celluloid soon to be moving out of the way so digital can rule the earth, it’s a given that a lot of movies are going to wind up lost.
There’s already tons of films that have disappeared because nobody took care of them, and it’s frightening to think it took an intervention from Steven Spielberg for Paramount to restore the negative for The Godfather, which cost the studio a million dollars to do.
There’s also many cinephiles who’ve been dying to find the lost footage from Orson Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons, which legend has it was a better film than Citizen Kane in its original form.
I was also shocked to learn that the Lon Chaney classic London After Midnight is now a lost film, because you would swear it was at least on DVD, but indeed it is gone. Then I started flipping through Rue Morgue magazine, where they did an extensive article on lost horror films, and it’s sad to see how many horror films are also gone. What’s also especially shocking to see is there’s a few modern horror films from the 70’s that are now lost.
In the case of Life Without a Soul, from 1915, when the production company went under, none of the prints were saved, and with London After Midnight, it went up in flames when the MGM vault caught on fire. The Cat Creeps from 1930 is also gone, as is 1933’s The Monkey’s Paw. In the case of the Japanese version of King Kong from 1933, the prints were lost during World War II.
In the case of Nights of the Werewolf, which featured Spanish cult horror star Paul Naschy, even he hadn’t seen the film, and when no one paid the lab bill, the film was either filed away somewhere, or was thrown in the garbage. Ed Wood also had a lost film, Night of the Ghouls, that finally came out after over twenty years because someone finally paid off the lab bill for it.
Rue Morgue even mentions a 1979 Sasquatch film called Revenge of Bigfoot which has an appearance of from former President Bill Clinton. (It was shot in Arkansas.) Maybe the FBI seized it or something, although Clinton certainly has more embarrassing things to hide than being in a silly horror film. There’s also a film mentioned called Pulgasari from South Korea, directed by Shin Snag-ok, who was also forced by Kim Jong-Il to make communist movies.
Good, bad or indifferent, it’s really too bad there’s going to be more lost films to come in the future, simply because there’s too many movies out there to preserve and take care of. Thankfully a lot of film restoration is being done digitally so we don’t have to worry about all the film labs that are going to get shut down, but again, we’re going to lose a lot of movies no matter what because that’s just the way of progress.
Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun to read this article, because posters and stills from these movies did survive, and it’s a fun game you can play in your imagination what it must be like to have seen these films, or what it would be like to find a lost print of one and be able to watch it.