Oo-ooo-o, velcome to the Lighttrain! I’m your conductor here again vor yet another epizode ov Out ov Order! Alright, enough of the vampire impression. For now, or course. When Hollywood has just become big and silent films were being produced, the major studios didn’t feel that the films being released should be preserved, and their tapes would often return from theaters and end up in a dark studio vault. Because of this, some movies would be lost forever or end up carelessly getting caught on fire and destroyed, and so this week we’re counting down 8 horror films, whether they may be lost or burned. Let’s get this show on the road!
No. I ~ The Ghost Breaker (1914, 1922)
Our first pick is technically two films, but I figured they were too similar to split up; The Ghost Breaker from 1914 and The Ghost Breaker from 1922. The first film is on the far right above, while the 1922 adaption is the middle poster. The duo of films have been adapted from a 1909 play of the same name, and both share the same plot. Despite the similarities it sounds like the tones are different; the 1914 version is more of black and white drama while its counterpart, a silent comedy. Even after these movies were lost, they were adapted twice more into The Ghost Breakers (poster on the far right) from 1940 and Scared Stiff, starring the slapstick companions Martin and Lewis, released in 1953.
My theories for each of their disappearances is that the 1914 version got worn out and neglected, most likely trashed. For the other, something’s telling me that it exists, with my bets being a studio executive got their hands on it and have it in their home somewhere. I’m not sure though, since info on these were rather sparce. Oh well, moving on.
No. 2 ~ King Kong Appears in Edo (1938)
Our next one is a little bit odd, or you couldn’t already tell by the poster above. King Kong from RKO Pictures was a game changer in practical effects, along with the Japanese Godzilla classic. Many other studios couldn’t even dare attempt such a risky move, but others were willing to perhaps take another route. Soy`a Kumagai (can’t write these Japanese names in the least), the director of King Kong Appears in Edo, is suspected to have referred to the yeti-looking creature as “King Kong” to gather audiences . The likelihood of this is quite possible, keeping in mind that some critics & film historians claim that the “Kong” is never mammoth in size throughout the film as well as that Appears in Edo was distributed by a low budget studio that most likely couldn’t even afford much effects at all. On the flip side of the coin, the costume designer and actor of Kong from the 1933 American version also worked on this film. Down the rabbit hole I go, huh? My guess is that the studio hired him in hopes to convince him it was, like, a successor to King Kong.
But for now, the film’s lost. Well, what happened to it? This is, to me, one of the easier hypotheses: Since the studio was a poverty row (B-movie) one, I believe that when the studio shut down they most likely trashed all their film reels, lost forever probably. The only thing we have is the Japanese magazine Kinema Junpo, which advertised the film in the April 14, 1938 issue. I’d say that’s enough of King Kong Appears in Edo for now; let’s continue.
No. 3 ~ The Mummy films (1911-1923)
Ah yes, the Boris Karlof Mummy. A classic example of early monster movies. And of course, that meant it got it’s fair share of fans. A common question among them was if there were any older Mummy movies that predated 1932, the year of the Karloff classic. It turns out that there are at least four other older films titled The Mummy; one from 1911, 1912, 1914, and finally 1923. That’s not even all of them, as there are additional films that also have the word Mummy in the movie’s name but that would be to many for me to possibly list here. The one most sources have info on is the 1911 incarnation, which is about a young scientist who wants to prove himself to this romantic interest and her father by being an Egyptologist, but a mummy he possesses becomes reanimated and falls in love with him. All that exists is a single still of the main cast.
While the 1911 Mummy is thought to be the earliest of its own title, The Monster Book says that Robbing Cleopatra’s Tomb from 1899 and Le Mombie del Roi from 1909 are older, though those two are also lost.
No. 4 ~ Dracula’s Death (1921)
Before the 1931 Dracula and even before Nosferatu was the Hungarian horror film Drakula Halala, but for the best let’s just call it by its English counterpart, Dracula’s Death. It’s about a woman in a mental institution who’s being haunted by what she assumes are visions of Dracula himself. Although it seems to be the first Dracula film ever made, The Vampire Book has an earlier adaptation, called simply Dracula, that is said to be released a year prior to Dracula’s Death, but the book also points out that no copies of the 1920 version exist. The film’s footage have been said to have appeared in Siberia, though since the revealed clips are probably fake and that not much more of the discovery has been expanded on in quite some time points that the “found” copy is more likely than not, a hoax.
As of July 2020, the book Tome of Terror written by film critic Troy Howarth claims yet another skeptical revelation that a prized issue of Dracula’s Death is in some Hungarian archive, though, like the 1920 Russian Dracula confirmed by The Vampire Book, we can’t be sure if this is fact of fiction. So, in order of the Dracula films, there’s the Bram Stroker classic, Nosferatu, which only horror nerds know about, Dracula’s Death, which few know about, and the Russian Dracula that might not even exist.
We’ll return with more lost horror movies after these messages…
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No. 5 ~ Phantom of the Opera (1916)
It may come as a surprise for many fans of the original Phantom of the Opera that the first adaption of Gaston Leroux’s novel is missing. Not only missing, but no footage, photo stills or even a poster have been found as of yet. The only existing information is that it was directed by Ernst Matray in autumn 1915, the film was German and a silent film with English intertitles, and only a few cast members. According to myth, Nils Chrissander played the iconic Phantom while Aud Egede Nissan played the role of Christine. In addition, director Matray played the character Raoul.
My best bet is that this Phantom of the Opera might’ve got destroyed during World War II or something similar, and before that it just remained locked up in a German archive.
No. 6 ~ Life Without Soul (1915)
This was the unofficial sequel to the Edison Frankenstein short film from 1910, in of itself also believed lost. On a brief but interesting tangent from the main feature, the Edison Frankenstein was purchased by film collector Alois Dattlaff from his mother-in-law in the 50s, though Dattloff didn’t uncover the copy’s rarity until the mid 70s. He then issued a 35mm print to keep in preservation as well as 1,000 DVD’s containing the whole 14 minutes of film. Today Frankenstein from 1910 remains in the public domain though Life Without Soul has been all but forgotten. All that really remains is the lobby card shown above, as well as the cast and a synopsis. The framing device is that a man dreamt the whole picture after falling asleep reading the Mary Shelly Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus novel.
To be completely honest, I have no clue where this film could be. I don’t know if it was burned up or lost, who knows. Almost finished here today, so let’s wrap this thing up.
No. 7 ~ The Cat Creeps (1930)
Our next film is similar to Phantom of the Opera in that it would make history if it weren’t lost. Universal wanted to remake their 1927 silent horror movie The Cat and the Canary into a sound film, which would have made it the first horror talkie ever produced. While the film has been viewed by some, no copies have been found of the remake, titled The Cat Creeps. Luckily, there are bits and pieces of The Cat Creeps that can be seen by general eyes, thanks to the horror comedy short Boo!, released by Universal in 1932 and incorporating 2 full minutes of footage, and the soundtrack being available on CD discs, though such are rather difficult to get hands on. There might also be some value in the Spanish film La Voluntad del Muerto, which is a foreign language version of the film. According to my sources, this edition of the film is not lost, so I suppose The Cat Creeps is still out there! In Spanish translation, that is.
In 1946, The Cat Creeps was remade again into a film of the same name, though the plot resembled more with the 1940 mystery film Horror Island rather than the movie it was remaking. From the archived reviews of the 1930 version, opinions have been highly positive, so let’s hope one day we can dig up The Cat Creeps and see for ourselves.
No. 8 ~ London After Midnight (1927)
The final film of the evening might just be our most popular, London After Midnight directed by Tod Browning (who made the 1931 Dracula and the controversial 1932 film Freaks) and starring Lon Chaney, a frequent collaborator of Browning. You would think that a film with such excellent talent would be treated with care, hence not the case. Apparently the presumed last copy of the film was destroyed in the 1965 MGM studio fire, along with many other rare older films. Despite this, many film historians remain fascinated by London After Midnight, and it manages to be a staple in the mystery thriller genre even with no copies of footage existing.
Would you look at that! Lon Chaney’s role as the Man in the Beaver Hat could be just as iconic as Frankenstein or Dracula, and he sort of is. In modern times I’m definite that many filmmakers wouldn’t be able to create a character this exaggerated, but back then they did. In 2002, the television network Turner Classic Movies used stills and photos from the partially found feature and produced a 45 minute recreation of London After Midnight, using the original script as a reference. So, thank you TCM for being awesome, but that’s a subject best saved for its own separate post.
That’s all for this episode. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of Out of Order and keep up with washing your hands, maintaining social distance, and eat some more cabbage. Trust me on that last one.
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