How many times have you come home, poured yourself a frosty one, climbed into your favorite chair, flipped on Netflix and said to yourself “Tonight I’m finally gonna sit down and watch…hey, where did it go?!” If you’re like me the answer is probably NEVER, because you collect movies on DVD, Blu-Ray, VHS, LASERDISC or perhaps, if you’re fortunate enough, film. Perhaps you like reading books and magazines and you’ve figured why have this library taking up space when you can just get it all online? So now you’ve tossed out your books and mags and do all your reading on Kindle, until, Zap! It’s all gone. And that is what has been happening to people lately as studios change their licensing deals with mega companies like Apple. What if you were doing research and using, say, the great Starlog Magazine as a source using the Internet Archive, who currently have every issued digitized, and it went belly up? Where would you go? I guarantee you your local library wouldn’t have them. If you made purchases on iTunes do you get your money back?
“Our ability to offer refunds diminishes over time. Hence your purchases don’t meet the conditions for a refund.”
Essentially what Apple is saying is that you don’t really own your purchases at all, what you’re buying are digital rights to your movie purchase. When you purchase it you should download it immediately but most people don’t and just let it live on iTunes and that’s how they take you, and yes, in my opinion, they are taking you.
Another thing that has been happening to users on iTunes is the downgrading of previously purchased 4K films to regular old HD. The report I read is that most of this happened in Canada so it may be a regional rights issue, but the way I see it is that if you buy something it should be yours. Recently I had a computer issue and had to reinstall everything, including my copy of Final Draft, well, unfortunately, it won’t install because the company no longer supports that version so the key code no longer works, but I bought it! “We’ll be more than happy to upgrade it for you for 150 bucks.” I’m sure you will, back to paper I guess.
That’s where we’re at now, mass digital everything. But why? There is something cold and unnatural about flipping through art or reading a magazine on an iPad or phone. I’d much rather be flipping through a magazine or book for those things, there’s a certain warmth or comfort, at least for me anyway, flipping through a good book, especially an older one where you can just smell the pages. It’s that same feeling I get going through an old bookstore, someone should bottle that scent and call it Bookworm By Faberge. The digital world has no scent, no texture, no warmth, just cold and impersonal. The other day I got out of my car and saw some guy whipping his phone dry, he notices me looking at what he’s doing and says “I dropped my phone in the toilet.” I laughed and told him he should’ve brought the paper instead, I’m sure there still some left out there.
As far as movies are concerned, the best thing to do is just buy the movies on disc or tape, as it can actually be a good investment, I once sold my Ennio Morricone soundtrack to the film ORCA; THE KILLER WHALE for about thirty bucks at a record store, who usually lowballs you. I think I paid 15 dollars for it. Weeding out my collection has, over the years, paid my rent and bought me food when times have been tough, but nothing can match the hours of enjoyment and memories associated with finding them and watching them. Even finding them has changed as many brick and mortar stores have disappeared. I often miss going to specialty stores like the long gone Suncoast Video and my personal favorite DVD Planet and flipping through cases, talking with the clerks about films and grabbing a bite to eat afterward. There was a social experience for something that is essentially anti-social.
Digital vs Hard Copies
As a movie collector, all I can say is that owning discs are much more fun than a computer full of video files. I mean one of my coolest disc sets is my Planet of The Apes Ultimate Collection, every Apes film from the original series, the TV show, The Saturday morning cartoon series and Tim Burton’s lackluster blockbuster remake all inside a life-size bust of monkey-boy himself Caesar, I missed out on the TERMINATOR 2 Ultimate edition that came in a Terminator metallic skull, wow that would’ve been something. Digi-books are fun as well, they have the film along with photos all in a book format, I love those a lot and wish they made more of them. Foreign editions often have specialty packaging that differs from their American counterparts, take the ALIEN series, for instance, here in the States it was just a gatefold box with the movies, but in Japan, the discs are stored inside the Xenomorph’s head making for quite the conversation piece.
The great thing about the emergence of discs and advancement of home audio/video equipment is the need for pristine visuals and audio, and the only way to meet the public’s demands were for the studios to start viewing their vast film libraries as a legacy and restore their pictures for future generations.
Film preservation is nothing new and actually goes back to the dawn of cinema when in 1890, Thomas Edison approached The Library of Congress about the copyright protection of his pictures. Unfortunately, copyright law never mentioned celluloid film, because it hadn’t been invented when it was written. Their way to use the law was to transfer each frame to photographic contact paper and copyrighting each frame and they did that for much of those early films and thank the film gods for that. Unfortunately once Cinema got going and the studios got larger, along with their output, taking care of their goods wasn’t all that important especially if it was a competitors product, MGM’s Louie B Meyer, for example, would buy up smaller companies or just the films and toss them in the back of their vaults and remake them, which could be why Reuben Mamoulian’s DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE was considered a lost film for a time (its now owned by Warner Bros and readily available.) and much superior to their remake with Spencer Tracy.
DVD Case Sleeve. Fits DVD Paperboard cases. 6-1/8 x 8-1/4″ x 1.5 mil POLYPROPYLENE. Resealable flap. Reseal tape is on the flap of the bag. Also, use for combination Paperboard/Plastic DVD Cases.
The other danger to early cinema was the fact that film was made from cellulose silver nitrate which is highly flammable (the term Silver Screen and perhaps the term Movie Star comes from the fact that the silver used to make the film would sparkle once projected onto the screen, an effect that is diminished by transferring it.) Many of these films were destroyed by fires, these nitrate films if not properly stored will combust on their own that’s why they don’t show those originals anymore except in approved movie houses, The American Cinématéqu in Los Angeles is one of them and I believe there’s one on the east coast as well, but it is very rare that they bust those out for exhibition. But not all these early films were lost to fires some just vanished like tears in the rain…or socks in the dryer. Which leads us to…
Raiders of The Lost Archive: A Glance At A Few Lost Treasures
“We are only passing through history…this, Indiana, this. Is. History.” René Belloq
Over the years film historians and film buffs have wanted to see films that they’ve only seen photographs of in books. While this list is not a most sought after or best of lost films they are ones I feel are of historical value. Looking up all the lost films that have been catalog was actually quite sad some were just b rate thrillers but others big Hollywood spectacles like…
FOX FILM CORPORATION
Director: J. Gordon Edwards
Writer: H. Rider Haggard
Starring: Theda Bera, Fritz Lieber
Based on the novel by H. Rider Haggard as well as William Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra, FOX’s 1917 CLEOPATRA was one of the first lavish Hollywood productions with massive sets, thousands of extras and dozens of provocative costumes worn by its star Theda Bera. The picture had the most number of costume changes by a single actor until FOX’s second CLEOPATRA remake with Elizabeth Taylor in 1965!
As with most biblical and or historical Hollywood epics, the plotting is basically a soap opera melodrama, with a lot of in’s and out’s and what have you’s, so I’ll spare you the plot details. It stared Theda Bera as the titular heroine and Fritz Leiber (father of legendary Sci-Fi novelist Fritz Leiber Jr.) as Caesar. It was quite long for this period, IMDB lists it at 2 hours 5 minutes. This past summer I was fortunate to have seen the recreation of the film and it was quite lavish. The scenes where Cleopatra arrives in Egypt on her boat, as well as the Battle of Actium, was shot off the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach California. Since I’m from Orange County and still live here, it was interesting to see the locations and some of the behind the scenes photos of the area.
The film was a box office sensation upon its release on October 14th, 1917, The New York Times wrote “Cleopatra, an uncommonly fine picture….From a scenic standpoint, also, it is quite a triumph for the director. The Sphinx, the pyramids and a goodly section of Rome are duly duplicated, and the larger scenes are handled in a way that suggests D. W. Griffith. The naval battle at Actium is made most impressive, and the handling of the chariots also furnishes many a thrilling moment.
Like a lot of these pre-code silent pictures that were a bit risqué, CLEOPATRA was censored throughout the country. When it was re-released after The Hayes Code, Hollywood’s self-censoring “moral authority” then ordered another round of cuts, then disaster struck. In 1937 FOX had a major fire in their vaults caused by the highly flammable silver nitrate that films at the time were made from and what was left of the film was destroyed, including most of Theda Bera’s early films and only a few seconds of footage remain. Filmmaker Phillip Dye has spent several years reproducing the film using the original screenplay as a source, then placing 100s of photographs in sequence and having it scored using the original sheet music. It was screened at The Hollywood Heritage Museum in 2017, this is the version I saw a few months ago when It was screened in Newport Beach, which also had a lot of behind the scenes photographs relevant to the area.
THE GOLEM 1915
Universum Film-Acktiem UFA
Director: Paul Wegener and Henrik Galeen
Though Gustav Meyrink’s novel The Golem was serialized in 1913 and then published in novel form in 1915, directors Paul Wegener and Henrik Galeen’s DER GOLEM was not a work based on Meyrink’s novel, but rather an original based on folklore but taking place in modern times. As with the other Golem pictures director, Paul Wegener also stared at the hulking clay creature known as The Golem.
Paul Wegener first heard of the legend of the Golem, a clay statue brought to life by Rabbi Loew to save the Jewish people of Prague from a pogrom set forth by Rudolf II of Hapsburg, whilst he was on location in Prague staring in THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE in 1913. Writer-directors Wegener and Galeen decided to set their picture in modern times. In their story DER GOLEM, The clay creature is discovered in the ruins of a synagogue by some workmen and sold to an antiquarian who knowing the legend brings it to life and uses it as a servant. The creature falls in love with his wife Jessica (Lyda Salmonova, then director Wegener’s wife) Because of his unrequited love for her he goes on a murderous rampage and is eventually destroyed.
The picture was a huge smash and just like today, a sequel was ordered 1917s THE GOLEM AND THE DANCING GIRL (Der Golem Un Die Tänzerin). This picture took a dramatic change by being a satire of the first picture. In this picture, a “paid dancer” (Lyda Salmonova) goes to a play version of The Golem (Paul Wegener) and he overhears the dancer proclaim her love for the Golem, even as much as to keep a life-size replica of him in her apartment. Well, once he hears this he high-tails it over to her pad, still in costume, puts the statue in the closet and stands in its place. When she comes home she proclaims her love to it and The Golem comes to life only to be interrupted by one of her johns. This story sounds pretty juvenile but I’d like to check it out, as it sounds like an episode of Three’s Company!
Both these films are lost but according to IMDB, 8 minutes of it have been found. It’s interesting to note that the look of the creature remained the same even in the third picture The Golem; How It All Began, the famous German Expressionist version that’s readily available on home video but itself is missing some moments. Perhaps the film gods felt that only one was worth remembering.
LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT 1927
Director: Tod Browning
Starring: Lon Chaney, Marceline Day
Lon Chaney and Tod Browning’s LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT is perhaps the most famous lost film, but it wasn’t always lost, the one print MGM had left, like CLEOPATRA, was destroyed in a vault fire in 1965.
When a respectable gentleman is found dead in a mansion outside of London, Scotland Yard calls it a suicide but the case is never solved. Five years later a weird looking man with sharp teeth and a top hat shows up with a ghostly female companion to the mansion, prompting friends of the deceased to notify the authorities and the unsolved case is reopened. A lot of the usual old dark house stuff happens as the true killer is exposed.
LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT was the 7th picture actor Lon Chaney made with director Tod Browning and, as usual for the two, the audiences flocked to the picture and it was a huge hit. Critically it was hit and miss. Critics found it wasn’t as good as Brownings other pictures. Director Tod Browning would go on to remake it in 1935 as MARK OF VAMPIRE with Béla Lugosi in the Chaney role and Caroll Boreland as the mysterious Luna. The plot is the same they just made the Chaney character a Vampire and the setting is now the theater. Browning and Chaney would make three more pictures together, THE BIG CITY, WEST OF ZANZIBAR and finally WHERE EAST IS EAST with Lupe Vélez as Chaney’s daughter, before his untimely death from lung cancer in 1930 at the age of 47. Had Chaney not died, he more than likely would have played Count Dracula in Tod Browning’s DRACULA, that makes LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT the closest we could’ve seen from “The Man of A Thousand Faces” as a blood-sucking vampire. In 2003 TCM reconstructed the film using available stills and put it on their LON CHANEY DVD COLLECTION. Maybe someday it’ll show up but until then there are plenty of photographs.
THE CAT CREEPS 1931
Director: Rupert Julien
Starring: Helen Twelvetrees, Raymond Hackett, Neil Hamilton
LA VOLUNTAD DEL MUERTO (Spanish version 1931)
Director: George Melford and Enrique Tovar Ávalos
Starring: Lupita Tovar, Antonio Moreno
Directed by Rupert Julian (THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) THE CAT CREEPS was Universal’s 1930 talking remake of their 1927 classic THE CAT AND THE CANARY, yes, studios remade movies that weren’t that old back then too. The picture stared Helen Twelvetrees, Raymond Hackett and Neil Hamilton, best remembered as Commissioner Gordon on TVs BATMAN, and Jean Hershalt, ( he helped start The Motion Picture Relief Fund which gives financial help to industry employees and The Jean Hershalt Humanitarian Award that is handed out at the Oscars each year) in another old dark house murder mystery, a genre that’s a bit forgotten but was quite popular at the time with pictures like THE OLD DARK HOUSE, THE BAT WHISPERS, ONE FRIGHTENED NIGHT. What survives this are some photos and a couple of clips that were later used in a short film called BOO! And some sound discs.
In the 1920’s through the early 30’s studios made Spanish language versions of some of their films, these pictures had Latino casts and some crew, this would provide a training ground for Mexican filmmakers and many would bounce between Hollywood and Mexico. LA VOLUNTAD DEL MUERTO was the Spanish version of THE CAT CREEPS. It stared Lupita Tovar and Antonio Moreno and directed by George Melford with assistance with dialog by Enrique Tovar Ávalos. While other studios made Spanish language versions of films what separates Universal’s is that producer Paul Kohner suggested the use the same sets and equipment as the English versions enable to save money. English was shot during the day and Spanish at night. This same team worked on the Spanish version of Dracula the following year as well. Producer Kohner had a moviola on set so that he could view the rushes that the day crew was doing in hopes to improve on what he saw. Studio head Carl Laemmle thought the Spanish versions were better in both instances. Producer Paul Kohner and actress Lupita Tovar got married not long afterward. Lupita Tovar passed away two years ago at 106!
WASEI KINGU KONGU (1933)
Director: Torajirō Saitō
Starring: Yasuko Koizumi, Isamu Yamaguchi
In 1933 comedy director Torajirō Saitō made what possibly could be the very first Kaijū picture, WASEI KINGU KONGU. What?! How?! You might ask. Here’s how it happened. Shochiku Studios who were handling distribution duties in Japan on behalf of RKO for their film KING KONG and wanted to capitalize on the worldwide success of the picture by making a short comedy tie-in of sorts to play with the picture on it Japanese release. They turned to Torajirō Saitō who is now considered the father of comedy in Japan, to direct.
The film is about a vagabond named Santa (Isamu Yamaguchi) his girlfriend’s father refuses to let her continue to date Santa and go out with a rich guy. Santa, heartbroken, seeing how successful the film KING KONG is and convinces a vaudeville show to let him reenact the film on stage and it becomes popular. During a performance he spots his girlfriend and her new wealthy boyfriend out in the audience, in a rage he jumps off stage still in his gorilla suit and sees her boyfriend outside. The public sees this and notifies the authorities about an escaped gorilla and now the cops are after him. He catches up to the boyfriend and knocks him out. Santa’s friend tells him that owner of the vaudeville theater loves the act and wants to pay him a bunch of money and Santa and his girl live happily ever after.
ARAWARETA KINGU KONGU 1933
King Kong made another appearance in a Japanese picture this time in 1938 silent picture, EDO NI ARAWARETA KINGU KONGU or KING KONG APPEARS IN EDO this picture was produced by Zenshō Cinema and was made in two parts, the first part being called EDO NI ARAWARETA KING KONGU: HENGE NO MAKI (King Kong Appears In EDO: The Episode Of The Monster) and the other being called EDO NI ARAWARETA KINGU KONGU: Ōgon No Maki (King Kong In Edo: The Episode Of Gold) Zenshō Cinema was essentially a poverty row studio along the lines of American poverty row studios like Monogram or Producers Releasing Corporation, so this picture was strictly made to cash in on the Japanese 1938 re-release of KING KONG.
The Kong suit was created by actor and special effects man Fuminori Ōhashi (Ōhashi later would help supervise the creation of the original GOJIRA suit alongside Eiji Tsuburaya) Fuminori Ōhashi credits the work on this film as being the first model making to be counted as art direction, thus making this film the precursor to the Kaiju pictures of GODZILLA and his pals!
So how did these two pictures get lost? Unfortunately, the storage facility that housed the films were located in Hiroshima and were destroyed when the B-29 Enola Gay dropped the bomb, so, unfortunately, this most likely will never show up.
THE MONKEYS PAW 1933
RKO Radio Pictures
Director: Wesley Ruggles, Ernest Shoedshack (uncredited)
Starring: Ivan F. Simpson, Louise Carter, C. Aubrey Smith, Bramwell Fletcher
Speaking of KING KONG, Ernst Schoedsack, who along with Marion C. Cooper, created KING KONG but also that year made a film version of W. W. Jacobs classic short story for RKO, THE MONKEY’S PAW, but this story, unlike most in this blog, has a happy ending.
I’m sure most people of a certain age have heard of W. W. Jacobs The Monkey’s Paw as it was usually required reading in high school literature classes, but in case you don’t the story goes like this, Mr. Morris, here played by C. Aubrey Smith, shows a monkeys paw to Mr. and Mrs. White. This paw, which Morris procured whilst stationed in the British Army in India, can allegedly grant its owner three wishes, the previous owner used the third wish for death. Morris, believing this paw to be dangerous, wants to destroy it, but Mr. White begs him not to and wishes for money to release his debts. The Whites son (Bramwell Fletcher, the mad archeologist in 1931’s THE MUMMY) is killed at his job and they are compensated for it. After the funeral, Mrs. White asks her husband to wish their son back from the dead, and he does but then wishes him back to the grave because he’d be pretty disfigured. Moral of the story; be careful what you wish for.
The short story is only a few pages long so screenwriter John Graham, who only has one other title to his credits, the 1931 Leslie Howard picture DEVOTION, had to add some more business; like a prelude in India explaining the origins of the paw. These scenes most likely feature exotic Nina Quartaro, who’s featured heavily in lobby cards and production stills. Considering that Ernst Schoedsack was an uncredited director and had made his name along with Marion C. Cooper as daredevil filmmakers shooting wildlife for documentaries like CHANG, which was nominated for Best Picture in 1929, I’m sure these India sequences were directed by him; and like his KING KONG and MOST DANGEROUS GAME were probably exciting with exotic looking jungles.
The good news about this picture is that it has reportedly been found in a private collection in Italy but dubbed in French. Supposedly Warner Bros has one original reel, which would make sense as they are the current owners of the RKO RADIO PICTURES library. When this will become available for home viewing, who knows. As Indiana Jones would say “It belongs in a museum!”
MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY 1987
Director: Quentin Tarantino
While working at Manhattan Beach’s Video Archives Quentin Tarantino co-wrote with Craig Hamann, directed, and co-produced the film MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY. Shot over the course of three years, the film tells the story of DJ Clarence Poole (Quentin Tarantino) who wants to do something for his friends birthday and wackiness ensues.
The film was shot for in black and white for about five thousand dollars. It has some moments but it’s not their greatest thing though he is probably the best thing in the film and some of the dialogue would find its way into some of his other pictures, namely TRUE ROMANCE. There’s a scene in a pool hall that has a really nice camera move where it circles around a pool table as Clarence tries to pick up a hooker.
The 70-minute film never got a release and was destroyed in a fire, however, a couple of reels survived with Tarantino rumored to have them. The surviving reels have been cut together and can be easily seen on YouTube.
The Lost Films of The World’s First Female and Pioneering Director, Lois Weber
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE
WHITE HEAT (1934)
Directed by Lois Weber
Lois Weber is perhaps the most important woman filmmaker in the history of cinema and it’s sad that much of her work has been lost or in danger of being lost. Lois Weber was the first woman to ever direct a film 1914’s THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, which she made with husband Phillips Smalley for Carl Laemmle’s Universal Film Manufacturing Co. that would later become Universal Studios. Her most important work was the 1915 Paramount picture HYPOCRITES. This picture was a controversial hit and was, ironically, banned because one of its character, The Naked Truth, was played by a naked actress. In one of the stories that make up the picture, a monk is trying to raise money for a statue called The Naked Truth, once’s it’s created he is stoned to death because the statue is nude. The film written and directed by Lois featured great cinematography with nice compositions and innovative use of double exposures. This film is part of the Library of Congress Film Collection but the silver nitrate is slowly deteriorating.
About Lois Weber
Lois Weber was from a devoutly religious family from Pennsylvania and was a prodigious child who excelled at the piano even touring the country as a concert pianist. When she was older she left home to be a street evangelist, which is important to note considering her later film HYPOCRITES. She eventually got into acting where she also became successful. She later met Wendell Phillips Smalley
And the two were eventually married.
In 1908, Smalley got a gig recoding Phonoscènes (recorded plays on discs, these would later be used for early sound pictures) and Weber would write the scripts for these as well as direct language photoscènes. It was here that her film career began as well the two began making short films often credited as The Smalleys with her husband taking most of the credit for writing.
The two worked for Rex Motion Picture Company in New York when it was merged with Carl Laemmle’s Universal Film Manufacturing, later Universal Studios, where Weber stared, wrote and co-directed her first short film for them. 1911’s A HEROINE OF ’76 a picture about an attempted assassination on George Washington. One reviewer said of it “The picture is just what the producers claimed it would be before its release. It is one of the best historical pictures ever put on screen…Managers evidently have made no mistake in bidding up the price (of admission) They will find it a superior attraction.” They all moved to the west coast and continued to work for Carl Laemmle who was an advocate for female directors. Lois eventually became mayor of Universal City, which is the small area that encompasses the studios. She would leave Universal in 1914 but would bounce back and forth for the remainder of her career.
Her films dealt with topics such as abortion, birth control, poverty and drug addiction in pictures such as the lost THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE. She pioneered things like location shooting, split screen among others. Some of her shorts are readily available on YouTube. The short SUSPENSE is a good example of the kind of work and artistry she did and despite being over a 100 years old is quite effective and entertaining.
Eventually, Lois became one of, if not, the top filmmakers in that era. She eventually divorced Smalley and remarried a retired army officer who owned 140 acres in Fullerton, Ca and she formed her own production company. By the twenties, her career slowed down and by the thirties, it was barely alive. On November 13, 1939, she passed away from a bleeding ulcer all but forgotten by the public. On February 8th, 1960 she received a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Her final film was WHITE HEAT, which is now lost. It’s about a man named William Hawks (David Newell who started out as an actor but became a make-up artist in Hollywood), he works on a sugar plantation on Kauai. He doesn’t approve of his white peers hooking up with the native women but he eventually succumbs to his wanton desires and hooks up with one, Leilani (Mona Maria, THE ARIZONA KID) but he eventually leaves for San Francisco, marries and takes back to Kauai a white society girl named Lucille Chaney (Virginia Cherrill, CITY LIGHTS). Once on the island Lucille gets bored and has an affair with a yacht owner, native girl Leilai gets jealous, William drinks and gets into it with Lucille’s lover and the plantation catches on fire. The picture sounds more like a footnote to a filmmaking pioneer than anything worth remembering which is a bit sad.
WHITE HEAT was the first picture ever shot on the island of Kauai in August of 1933 made independently by Seven Seas Corporation it did moderately well with critics and audience and was nominated for the Mussolini Cup for Best Foreign Film at the Venice Film Festival In 1934, WHITE HEAT would be her first talkie and sadly her last film. When and how WHITE HEAT became a lost film is unknown as it did air early on television in 1940.
That’s it for now. I hope that more pictures are found as time goes on, maybe they’re in someone’s private collection or collecting dust in someone’s attic, George A Romero’s original negative for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was once considered lost but was eventually found in the 90s in producer Carl Eastman’s attic along with color photographs from the shoot. So who knows maybe someday we’ll get to see LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT in its original spooky glory.