Lost Films

Discuss films and filmmakers of the 20th century (and even a little of the 19th century). Threads may contain spoilers.
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lady wakasa
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#76 Post by lady wakasa » Wed Oct 10, 2007 12:01 am

I'll just say that this in incredible news, and I hope that everything works out.

It sounds a little like the discovery of Beyond the Rocks.

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The Elegant Dandy Fop
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#77 Post by The Elegant Dandy Fop » Wed Oct 10, 2007 1:45 am

I'm the BIGGEST Murnau fan, and it kills me to ask this question, because I absolutly can't wait...

If someone has to take a guess, how long is the whole process, from retreiving the prints, to discovering the right, to restoration, take? I honestly can't wait, and this may be the biggest news in decades.

I remember once reading in this forum than several Mizoguchi silents were found in an archive in korea. Anything ever happened with those?

EDIT: Ha ha ha!
Last edited by The Elegant Dandy Fop on Wed Oct 10, 2007 2:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Lemmy Caution
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#78 Post by Lemmy Caution » Wed Oct 10, 2007 1:56 am

The Elegant Dandy Fop wrote:I'm the BIGGEST Murnau film
Well please, don't get lost. Someone will come along to discover and preserve you, before too long.

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The Elegant Dandy Fop
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#79 Post by The Elegant Dandy Fop » Wed Oct 10, 2007 2:18 am

Lemmy Caution wrote:
The Elegant Dandy Fop wrote:I'm the BIGGEST Murnau film
Well please, don't get lost. Someone will come along to discover and preserve you, before too long.
I may not last for so long.

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Tommaso
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#80 Post by Tommaso » Wed Oct 10, 2007 4:57 am

If I remember correctly, wasn't it the case that Fox actually DESTROYED remaining prints and/or the original negative in the 40s in order to get storage space, thinking that these silent films were of no interest to anyone? Would such an action be of any importance if it came to a legal struggle for the rights? After all, with this destruction they had once and for all declared that they didn't have any interest in the film.
starmanof51 wrote:
tryavna wrote: I can just picture it now: a bunch of film geeks dressed in black knit, breaking into the poor old man's building -- all the time communicating via satellite phone with Herr Schreck, who'll be moving flags around a giant table map in his underground lair....
I live in the Seattle area - perhaps it's a dim commentary on my character, but this was the first thing I thought of. Schreck with a table map (and presumably riding crop, monocle optional) had not occurred to me, however.
LOOOOL.. If you guys are doing this, can anybody PLEASE document that with a camera?With an optional stream-of-consciousness audio commentary by Schreck, this would probably make one of the greatest dvd extras ever.

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#81 Post by Ledos » Wed Oct 10, 2007 8:59 am

Matt wrote:I'll just add another stir to the pot: while content can be public domain, any film print will still be property of the studio that struck it.
Actually no. The studio might try to make that claim, saying something to the extent of "we never give out, sell or dispose of film prints" but in reality such a claim would be difficult to prove. If they at some point has reported a stolen print, and it can be shown that the collector's print is the stolen one, they have a chance.
gubbelsj wrote:I know of the 1913 Russian film Four Devils by pioneering animator Wladislaw Starewicz / Ladislos Starevitch, one of the few live-action films he directed. Others?
Some years back it was rumoured that Murnau's Four Devils was found in Uruguay. Instead it was the German film Die Benefiz-Vorstellung der vier Teufel (1920) by the Danish director A.W. Sandberg (with the same script writer as the 1911 production).

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Danny Burk
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#82 Post by Danny Burk » Wed Oct 10, 2007 10:09 am

Tommaso wrote:If I remember correctly, wasn't it the case that Fox actually DESTROYED remaining prints and/or the original negative in the 40s in order to get storage space, thinking that these silent films were of no interest to anyone?
Universal did destroy their silents in the late 40s for reasons of storage space and insurance. Another studio's output (FBO, I think) ended up as landfill in a dam. AFAIK, Fox never destroyed anything purposely; many were lost in a major 1937 fire, and others simply deteriorated through neglect. Same for Paramount; what I've heard is that the latter simply threw out their nitrate prints as they started to go bad, and only those that still survived by the late 60s made it to the AFI for preservation. MGM started preserving their nitrate in the early 60s, so their silents have a much better survival rate than most of the other studios...about 60-70% as compared to 15-20% for Paramount, for example. Even so, the 1965 vault fire at MGM is responsible for the loss of LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, DIVINE WOMAN, and others that hadn't yet been preserved by the time of the fire.

Legend has it that Mary Duncan herself is responsible for the loss of FOUR DEVILS. There may or may not be any truth to the story, but supposedly she wanted to show the film to friends in the 50s or 60s, and Fox loaned her their print. After discovering that it was "that dangerous nitrate stuff", she dumped it in the ocean instead of returning it! Sounds rather improbable to me, though; I have to doubt whether Fox would actually have loaned the print in the first place, although there should be studio records to indicate if that actually happened.

Here's a link to a contemporary FOUR DEVILS review by Mordaunt Hall. It really whets one's appetite, doesn't it?

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HerrSchreck
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#83 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Oct 10, 2007 10:31 am

The laws are actually pretty clear as concerns US copyright, as has already been extrapolated at length by others here. This is why you don't see companies like Kino or BFI or MoC etc putting out the Von STerns, CITY GIRL, why nobody moved on SUNRISE for dvd before fox, the Borzage's, why Kino can't put out THE LAST WARNING by Paul Leni (they had to put out the Bologna resto of MAN WHO LAUGHS in conjunction w Uni, along w APPLAUSE etc) despite their dying to & gorgeous 1st gen elements lurking around, orall the MGM material etc etc. This material is hugely famous and for the most part is known to becoveted by collectors. For a good explanation of why, after the last copyright act of congress in the late 1990's, there is "technically" no such thing as Public Domain (at least for the time being), I'd refer interested folks to Jay Fentons little discourse in BLONDE ICE on the legalities of film restoration/distribution of prints from the vintage era. It's a conundrum, and thankfully the law is rarely enforced, first of all because collectors/scroungers like Shepard/Blackhawk or Wade Williams or Kit Parker do a service for big studios (in the case that they handle a big studio fillm) by rescuing and caring for films that a former regime in a given studio didn't give a shit about in the prior generation (think Universal vis their silent films from the sound era thru the 60's... or to today, to be honest). And many times, like with the unlicensed releases of material like PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, they do nothing because they had no plans to release them themselves. It's a grey area, with various arrangements based on the film/studio/date of release.

Again, going to the Murnau stiftung is silly since they have no rights on the film (just like they have no rights on CITY GIRL or SUNRISE from the same FOX cycle), same with the bfi though I understand Brits will have the patriotic impulse to do so. It's an American film from a studio just down the coast from where its sitting right now, and I by no means recommend calling Rupert Flinkin Murdoch... but calling UCLA (which I'm sure Matt knows houses and restores the huge bulk of work done for AFI, which he's reccommending), and their leading Murnau specialist, who's already proven her deep knowledge and love for the film (as well as her props in the preservation field) is the best case scenario. PLease don't subject the print to any more potential deterioration due to indulging the decision making process. The cans have obviously been opened, shuffled about, thus allowing temperature changes to occur, waking that nasty nitrate from its sleep. Rush it to these folks like you'd rush wounded individual to the emergency room. Hiring a lawyer sounds like there are now financial stakes involved which could get drawn out and stretch into negotiation... meanwhile the film will sit. If it were me I'd recuse my own interests and just hand it over into history.

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#84 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Oct 10, 2007 11:04 am

HerrSchreck wrote:Call Janet Bergstrom at the UCLA film and television archive (she is about as authoritative an expert on the film, Murnau, is deeply involved in restoration, and she's on the west coast. You have got to take action NOW, because the film cans need to get into refigeration, catalogued, etc. Please don't doodle... just call UCLA and get this going immediately. This is major news.
By the way it looks like the lady you mention signed up to the forum yesterday, so hopefully she will be able to help 125100!

Thanks for talking about your discovery 125100. It is exciting to just hear about the possibility of a lost film being rediscovered! (and I've also been enjoying reading the other posts to find out what happens after that!)

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Lemmy Caution
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#85 Post by Lemmy Caution » Wed Oct 10, 2007 11:30 am

Danny Burk wrote:Here's a link to a contemporary FOUR DEVILS review by Mordaunt Hall. It really whets one's appetite, doesn't it?
The review makes it sound very good, but is kind of a dull review. Interesting to hear Hall talk about how the cinematography lets the viewer imagine the colors though. But the second to last paragraph contains a SPOILER, so Beware if that's the kind of thing you like to Beware of.

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Steven H
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#86 Post by Steven H » Wed Oct 10, 2007 11:35 am

I just want to make some noise myself and say how amazing of a find this is. Its also interesting that someone with a hitler avatar and numbers for a name turned out to be a savior for Murnau fans. I'm not criticizing, just saying... neat. Only on the internet.

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125100
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#87 Post by 125100 » Wed Oct 10, 2007 11:44 am

Danny Burk wrote:Fox never destroyed anything purposely; many were lost in a major 1937 fire,
Yeah I'm aware of that but that fire was actually at a facility in Little Ferry, NJ which was where they made/kept copies of new releases which would later be distributed to cinemas on the West Coast. They did have an archive but whatever they had there they also held at storage facilities in California.

There is also evidence, or at least widespread speculation by film scholars and movie moguls around at the time, that Fox and many other studios did destroy silent film stock once the "talkies" were established. I mean the earlier sound musicals were packing them in while the last silent films running along side them were virtually empty. Without foreseeing VCR and DVD technology it's totally logical to see silents as worthless and obsolete.
HerrSchreck wrote:PLease don't subject the print to any more potential deterioration due to indulging the decision making process. The cans have obviously been opened, shuffled about, thus allowing temperature changes to occur, waking that nasty nitrate from its sleep. Rush it to these folks like you'd rush wounded individual to the emergency room. Hiring a lawyer sounds like there are now financial stakes involved which could get drawn out and stretch into negotiation... meanwhile the film will sit. If it were me I'd recuse my own interests and just hand it over into history.
Yeah personally I'd just donate it to the Stiftung for restoration and leave them to sort Fox out, but we are looking at this as Cinéphiles/DVD collectors with a view to one day watching 4 Devils as a gorgeous (Stiftung restored) MoC release. It's current owner has already seen it and isn't even close to realising the respect people have for Murnau's work or the importance of this film, plus he's had that collection for 40 Years, so you can understand his wanting to hold onto it.

With regards the "lawyer": People here, you included, were talking of the ease Fox could come and aggressively remove it. I imagined that would go for whatever else he has too so I thought it best to get definitive legal advice on the owners behalf, a member here who works as a lawyer just not in this field, also PM'd me recommending I do the same.

As things stand the legal expert I contacted (he's not a practicing lawyer or charging for his services) has written to the owner (since I don't know a phone number) basically saying that although he does have a claim to ownership Fox equally have a claim to repossessing it and the best solution is get it's condition independently assessed and then negotiate it's sale to Fox (or whoever owns distribution rights). Fox should be happy with that (if they even want it) since this is such a legal mess it would take years, possibly decades, to establish ownership through the courts and even if Fox do that there is evidence they discarded/destroyed their own copies so legally it could be ruled all Fox can do is make sure this copy follows their precedent and suffers the same fate.

At that point the National Film Registry would of course get the government to deem it Historically and Culturally Significant then take it into their custody with a view to restoring and preserving it but that's all speculation at the moment.
Steven H wrote:I just want to make some noise myself and say how amazing of a find this is. Its also interesting that someone with a hitler avatar and numbers for a name turned out to be a savior for Murnau fans. I'm not criticizing, just saying... neat. Only on the internet.
Well I wasn't christened 125100 :roll: for those who don't know 12:51:00 is a song by The Strokes, (favourite band from my "Yuff') and that "Hitler" started out life on a faux poster for Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator which I designed and snuck into the background of a cel-shaded video game I worked on recently.

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#88 Post by SoyCuba » Wed Oct 10, 2007 12:48 pm

So the owner has actually watched the movie. That propably makes him the only living person to have seen it.
125100 wrote:has written to the owner
Oh my. That doesn't sound like things are moving on very fast... And this waiting is pure torment!

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gubbelsj
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#89 Post by gubbelsj » Wed Oct 10, 2007 1:22 pm

colinr0380 wrote:
HerrSchreck wrote:Call Janet Bergstrom at the UCLA film and television archive (she is about as authoritative an expert on the film, Murnau, is deeply involved in restoration, and she's on the west coast. You have got to take action NOW, because the film cans need to get into refigeration, catalogued, etc. Please don't doodle... just call UCLA and get this going immediately. This is major news.
By the way it looks like the lady you mention signed up to the forum yesterday, so hopefully she will be able to help 125100!
Looks like Dave Kehr has also joined the board and has already mentioned the Tacoma location of 4 Devils on his blog. Word is traveling very fast....

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#90 Post by Matt » Wed Oct 10, 2007 1:35 pm

"phenterminepill" has also just joined. I wait with bated breath to hear what the weight-loss pharmaceutical industry will have to say about this discovery.

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#91 Post by Cinetwist » Wed Oct 10, 2007 2:04 pm

This is all extremely exciting.

It all sounds too good to be true. Like a dream. How did a relatively youthful fellow like yourself befriend a 70 year old American, thousands of miles away, who has a treasure trove of celluloid? Sorry, that sounds too personal, but it all sounds so marvelous and fascinating. Like a film in itself.

Obviously this needs to be saved as quickly as possible and Schreck's seems to be the most sensible route by some way. I think it'd be good to catalogue the rest of the collection as soon as possible also. If there's even one more film, or even a better print of an existing film in the collection, that's worth saving then the sooner the better.

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125100
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#92 Post by 125100 » Wed Oct 10, 2007 3:36 pm

Cinetwist wrote:It all sounds too good to be true. Like a dream. How did a relatively youthful fellow like yourself befriend a 70 year old American, thousands of miles away, who has a treasure trove of celluloid?
Well it was all a bit of an happy accident really, because of my work I spend a lot of time traveling between Seattle, Tokyo and my home in the UK. I have friends in all of these places and about 9 months ago one of these friends in Seattle was researching a bridge collapse and this guy, although about 10 at the time it happened, is a structural engineer and local history buff so he's pretty much an authority on the subject. Anyway, she'd made an appointment to see him so I drove her out to his home in Tacoma.

While there at one point she was reading through his old newspapers about some insurance scam and to fill the awkward silence me and the guy got chatting about what I do, that lead to us chatting about films and when he mentioned he had a load of old films in his workshop, I had a look and was fascinated. I didn't have time to watch anything but since we got on so well he said I was welcome back if I want to watch anything that took my fancy, to be honest I knew nothing of any of the titles except one or two so I had no plans to return but then the project I was working on came to a halt so I was stuck in Seattle with nothing to do and ended up visiting a few times to watch lots of pre-code/late silent goodness.

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Lino
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#93 Post by Lino » Wed Oct 10, 2007 4:33 pm

I don't want to rain on anyone's parade but let's not forget that so far no exact proof whatsoever that this is indeed the famous Murnau lost film has surfaced or been confirmed.

It would surely be a staggering find if it proves to be true but for now I think it's best to play safe and avoid any kind of future disappointment. But, like everyone here, I'm crossing my fingers and toes for it to be the real thing.

How long will it take for someone to make the reels identification?

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125100
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#94 Post by 125100 » Wed Oct 10, 2007 5:59 pm

Lino wrote:How long will it take for someone to make the reels identification?
It depends what option the owner takes, if he:

A) Donates it to a college or museum with a view to restoration/preservation then confirmation would be almost immediate.

B) Wants to negotiate a sale to Fox or Museum/College benefactor then an independent expert would need to be identified to verify the content and quality of the print. That could take a few weeks, as could drawing up none-disclosure/confidentiality contracts.

There are a few other options but it's best not to go into those...

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#95 Post by David Ehrenstein » Thu Oct 11, 2007 12:13 am

Amazing news. How were they stored? Ay notion of what condition they might be in?

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#96 Post by janet » Thu Oct 11, 2007 1:55 am

Hello, I cut and pasted all your messages into one file, and just read through them all. A fascinating story. For one thing, you don't have to worry about Fox trying to "repossess" anything. If this is really 4 Devils -- and for that matter, if the other films you mentioned having watched in this collection are original prints -- they are all nitrate, and 35mm, and should be deposited either with Fox or with an Archive, such as UCLA.

Then the prints can be evaluated for physical condition, preserved and copied. They do not have to be "given", they can be deposited. The important thing is that nitrate prints must be carefully stored, esp. as someone mentioned, if they have been sitting a long time unopened, and then the cans or boxes are opened and oxygen gets in. Does your friend know that nitrate is highly flammable?

After all, your friend wouldn't want to be responsible for having one of the most sought-after "lost films" and then losing it to nitrate deterioration or fire. Or, do you have the film in the UK?

Are these 35mm prints? How many reels are there of 4 Devils? There were two versions. If you email me directly, I can email you an essay I wrote that details the differences between the two. janetb_@_ucla_dot_edu

I am really curious about this, having worked for a very long time now researching Murnau's American career. I know the archivist at Fox very well, Schawn Belston, and I'm sure you and your friend would find him very reasonable and approachable. The same for UCLA, for that matter.

All best wishes, and I hope you will contact me directly-- and soon, Janet Bergstrom

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#97 Post by cdnchris » Thu Oct 11, 2007 3:03 am

Matt wrote:"phenterminepill" has also just joined. I wait with bated breath to hear what the weight-loss pharmaceutical industry will have to say about this discovery.
It won't be as interesting as to what "dvsdvhsdvks" or "sdfsdfervsdfsdsd" have to say I'm sure.
gubbelsj wrote:Looks like Dave Kehr has also joined the board and has already mentioned the Tacoma location of 4 Devils on his blog. Word is traveling very fast....
There's now a thread on IMDB (pointing to this one) and Rotten Tomatoes, so yes, it's making its way around.

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#98 Post by Lemdog » Thu Oct 11, 2007 5:02 am

I'm usually just a lurker around here but this thread has made me pop out of my hole for a little bit. First I would like to thank 125100 for recognizing the importance of this find, attempting to get information on the proper course of action, and coming to this forum as a starting point. This is truly a remarkable event. We can only hope that the physical condition of the print can be preserved for all the world to enjoy. I hope the owner of the print can appreciate what he can/is doing for the film community, history scholars, and the international community. I would also like like to thank all the member of this board for giving their expertise. I also hope that Fox or whoever you decide to deal with, will recognize this and negotiate a reasonable settlement with the owner that would make all parties happy. Again thank you for this. Ok, I'm going back into my hole.

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#99 Post by malcolm1980 » Thu Oct 11, 2007 12:55 pm

cdnchris wrote:There's now a thread on IMDB (pointing to this one) and Rotten Tomatoes, so yes, it's making its way around.
I'm responsible for the IMDb and RottenTomatoes one. :oops:

josemas

#100 Post by josemas » Thu Oct 11, 2007 8:46 pm

Some of you have asked if FOUR DEVILS is still under copyright. It is. The 12 reel version of the film was originally copyrighted by Fox on 1 Oct 1928- Copyright Number LP25737. Copyright was renewed on 22 Nov 1955- Renewal number R160319.

Joe Moore

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