It’s a sight known to many a film fan. Razor sharp, pointed teeth exposed by a rictus grin. Above, impossibly wide eyes, stare out at the viewer while a top hat covers a shock of wild white hair. It is Lon Chaney in one of his most famous roles, the silent London After Midnight. But it is a silent film that none have seen in the past five decades, ever since the only known print of the 1927 film was lost in a vault fire in 1967. But now is coming word that there may be another print of the film out there.
TV Producer Robert Parigi (Agents of SHIELD) has posted on Facebook that he has been hearing murmurings that a print of the film has been discovered in Spain. (Note, his Facebook page has its privacy settings set so that only friends can see his posts. The below quote comes via Bloody Disgusting.)
I’m noticing chatter that a 7-reel print of long-lost Tod Browning/Lon Chaney film LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (featuring Chaney’s iconic “Man in the Beaver Hat” Vampire) has been discovered in Spain! I had long heard rumors of a print in Cuba. Is this perhaps that print, now sent to Spain? 20 years ago, I heard rumors of a print in the U.S., and contacted the supposed owner offering to transfer it to (then state-of-the-art) D1, but when it came time to produce the print he backed out.
Not much to go on, so I would definitely urge caution in investing too much hope that it is true at this point. But we will be staying alert for more definite information coming out.
But if it is true, this find would be one of the most significant rediscoveries of a lost silent film in some time. The last several years have certainly seen their fair share of lost silent treasures coming back into the light of day including a longer cut of Fritz Lang’s 1927 classic Metropolis, Their First Misunderstanding (1911), the first film to credit star Mary Pickford by name, a 1916 version of Sherlock Holmes starring famed stage actor William Gillette and the 1922 Gloria Swanson – Rudolph Valentino romantic drama Beyond The Rocks, to name a few.
While the film has been gone for five decades, silent fans have been able to see two approximations of it. The first is a 1927 remake of the film called Mark Of The Vampire, directed by the original’s helmer Tod Browning. Browning also directed a number of other early horror and suspense classics such as the silent The Unknown, Dracula and the infamous Freaks. In 2002, restoration producer Rick Schmidlin was hired by Turner Classic Movies to create an approximation of London After Midnight using still photos shot on the sound stage at the time of the film’s production.