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What lost film would you love to see?

Lon Chaney Sr. in his own makeup, in London After Midnight.

My husband and I are both silent film buffs. (That makes us sound really pretentious but honestly, we got into silent film through our love of horror films–the Nosferatu/Caligari/German Expressionist route, you know. ) So naturally, there are a lot of films that were lost or destroyed (the whole silver nitrate thing) and that, unless someone finds a show-at-home reel or something stashed in an attic, we’ll never get to see.

I don’t really have a holy grail lost film anymore. Mine used to be the lost footage from Metropolis, but now most of that has been found and I’ve seen the restored version in all its (flawed) glory. But if I had an ask of the silent film gods, it would be any (and all) lost Lon Chaney Sr. films. And not necessarily London After Midnight, either. Though that would be cool to see, even though the general suspicion is that it kind of actually sucked. My other ask, even though it’s not film but actually television, would be all the lost Second Doctor episodes of Doctor Who from the sixties.

What about you? What lost film (or television episode, or even album) would you magically find if you could? What’s your holy grail?


  • Amber Sparks's work has been featured or is forthcoming in various places, including New York Tyrant, Unsaid, Gargoyle, Annalemma and PANK. She is also the fiction editor at Emprise Review, and lives in Washington, DC with a husband and two beasts.

18 thoughts on “What lost film would you love to see?

  1. Amber, have you read Richard Roud’s book A Passion for Films: Henri Langlois & the Cinematheque Francaise? It’s a biography, but much of the book is also about lost films, archiving, etc. I initially only picked it up because I worked with Roud’s niece and she suggested it, but it turned out to be far more interesting than I’d expected. Seems like it might be up your alley, too.

    A further aside: Roud was apparently pals with Beckett in Paris, and my co-worker once brought in some hilariously mundane bits of correspondence between the two.

  2. I’ve repeatedly seen estimates that 80% of all silent films have been lost, including especially most of the cinema made between 1894 and 1903 (one of my favorite era in cinema history, along with the ’30s, ’70s, and early ’90s). Which obviously negatively impacts our understanding of the time period.

    Personally, I’d like to see the footage Orson Welles shot for his film/play hybrid TOO MUCH JOHNSON. It was apparently lost when his house in Spain burned down.

    And then there’s Welles’s OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, which still exists, but has never been released, due to legal reasons and its, well, being incomplete. I’ve given up hope that I will ever get to see it.

    1. Eighty percent, good Christ. Not that I’m surprised. (BTW those are mostly my favorite eras–early silent, and I love the films of the 30’s and 70’s, too.)

      Welles’s Other Side of the Wind would be wonderful to see. We can only hope.

  3. Sticking with the Welles theme, I wish I could watch the lost Magnificent Ambersons footage. Stroheim’s Greed and the original version of Cassavetes’ Shadows also come to mind.

  4. Alberto Cavallone’s MALDOROR would probably be my number one, with Jerome Laperrousaz’s HU-MAN coming in at a close second. Also I’d really love to see Frans Zwartjes’s MEDEA, though I think that’s more “unavailable” than lost.

    1. Also, just read your post on this at HTMLGiant. Love. Cultural archeology is fascinating and obsession-making indeed. And necessary!

      Sent from my iPhone

  5. Four more:

    The lost spider pit footage from the original King Kong.

    The original version of Frankenstein vs. The Wolf Man with the Bela Lugosi dialogue still in it.

    The original preview release of 1925 Phantom of the Opera.

    The Cat Creeps, the sound remake of the silent Cat and the Canary.

  6. I guess it’s not “lost” so much as tangled in a perpetual legal argument, but I’ve been waiting years for an English language DVD of Wim Wender’s Until The End Of The World.

  7. Karl Atticus [sp?] made a movie in the early 1970s called “Mortal Remains,” an absolutely brutal story of the “Ten Little Indians” type that never saw the light of day after its premiere. Supposedly destroyed by the producers when they learned that the director was being sought by the authorities in relation to an incident of grave robbing! Makes you wonder what was in the film itself. Surely there must still be a print or negative somewhere.

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