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Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

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Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

Old 01-19-09, 03:17 AM
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Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

Thread title is a bit vague. Let me explain:

In the history of movies there have been some huge losses, whole films or parts of film lost forever. Most due to neglect and age. Some by accident, censorship, or other causes.

The National Archives has started gathering old films as a project, to try and save many old films that are being lost at and alarming rate because of this.

Now that I've covered the concept topically. What is your pick for the worst loss of film?

Mine is this:

Andrei Tarkovsky is the person I consider to be the 'best director'. The best period, in the history of film. He was granted large budgets(not compared to today, but huge for the day) for his films that were the envy of many great directors. I'm sure some of you have read of Akira Kurosawa's envy over the big budget granted Tarkovsky, and size of the sets on 'Solaris' after Kurosawa visited the set. He wished he could make a movie with that kind of money.

Well Tarkovsky made a film called 'Stalker'. HUGE budget for the production, which would have probably made for sets and production values being really something. He finished the film and edited it. Then the entire movie and all copies were burned up in a fire. Lost forever.

Tarkovsky re-shot the film on a shoestring budget. That's the film we have today called 'Stalker', the re-shoot. Many consider it Tarkovsky's best work as it is.

But MAN if I could only pick one movie lost forever to be restored, I would pick that original 'Stalker' to see what he had done with it. I wonder what we lost in that fire.

I have two more that immediately leap to mind but I'll see if anyone else posts them. Or even see if I get any buy in on this thread I guess.

What's yours?
Old 01-19-09, 04:50 AM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

Lost Horizon comes to mind.

I remember reading about Stalker but never picked the dvd up.
Old 01-19-09, 05:01 AM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

The Day the Clown Cried

http://www.subcin.com/clowncried.html
Old 01-19-09, 07:11 AM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

The Magnificent Ambersons. It's still a masterpiece even after being cut up beyond all recognition (the final third of the film might as well be the unwitting start of the jump cut), but the cut footage was thrown away then incinerated, so we'll almost certainly never see the full version.

Also, Greed, which was originally 10 hours (not really sorry that that got cut), but even the director's 4 hour edit was cut up and now the only four hour version comes from displaying a whole bunch of photo stills to fill the gaps, which is just boring.
Old 01-19-09, 07:44 AM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

Good call on Stalker. How about Touch Of Evil?
Old 01-19-09, 08:10 AM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

The roughly 8-hour cut of Erich von Stroheim's Greed.
Old 01-19-09, 08:48 AM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

Originally Posted by Yakuza Bengoshi
The roughly 8-hour cut of Erich von Stroheim's Greed.

That was exactly what came to mind when I saw the thread title, along with the Orson Welles material: these are the ones that would most make me smile.
Old 01-19-09, 08:49 AM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

Although I don't think it ever made it past some pre-production stages, Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon could have been an epic and the kind of film which becomes a benchmark for that type of cinema. I believe it was his next project after 2001 but with the financial failure of Waterloo the studio was hesitant to back the project. Kubrick essentially spent the last 30 years of his life researching the subject and I think some of the films he made in that time, such as Barry Lyndon and Full Metal Jacket, were in his mind dry runs for Napoleon.

A couple of good articles...
http://mysterymanonfilm.blogspot.com...-napoleon.html

http://archive.salon.com/ent/movies/...on/index3.html
Old 01-19-09, 09:01 AM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

Magnificent Ambersons, for all the reasons mentioned above.
Old 01-19-09, 10:15 AM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

Originally Posted by JANK
Good call on Stalker. How about Touch Of Evil?
Touch of Evil the Orson Welles film? Cause hasn't it been pretty much Welles' intended version since 98? I mean sure, we don't know for sure, but Welles left a crazy detailed memo of how he wanted it and they pieced it back from that.
Old 01-19-09, 10:42 AM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

Another vote for Magnificent Ambersons and Greed, plus Murnau's 4 Devils and Browning's London After Midnight.
Old 01-19-09, 10:49 AM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

Originally Posted by NoirFan
Browning's London After Midnight.
That's the one that jumped into my mind when I read the OP.
Old 01-19-09, 11:57 AM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

The original spider-pit sequence from King Kong (1933).
Old 01-19-09, 12:02 PM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

Originally Posted by KillerCannibal
The original spider-pit sequence from King Kong (1933).
Oooo Good one!
Old 01-19-09, 12:05 PM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

While not the 'greatest' some modern movies that never were--

A Master & Commander franchise, 3-5 movies, with the same cast and crew, and Weir directing

Harry Potter franchise, directed by Gilliam

Scorsese's Gangs of NY, with no Miramax interference, and Elmer Bernstein's original score.
Old 01-19-09, 12:16 PM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
Old 01-19-09, 12:20 PM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

One of my film profs years ago was nearly in tears talking about the lost footage from GREED - that's what I thought of immediately.
Old 01-19-09, 12:22 PM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

Good stuff here fellas.

I'll add the other two since they haven't been mentioned:

Fritz Lang's original 'Metropolis'.

The original uncensored cut of Sergei Eisenstein's 'Battleship Potemkin', though the version of the film on the recent Kino release is fantastic and probably the closest we will ever get.
Old 01-19-09, 12:47 PM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

The Marx Brothers' Horse Feathers, "Ice Sequence" has been a choppy mess for at least the last two decades, I hope a lost print will show up to make the sequence run smoothly... For that matter all the missing footage from the Universal Marx brothers movies....
Old 01-19-09, 12:52 PM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

Cleopatra (1917) would also be amazing to see.
Old 01-19-09, 01:05 PM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

Originally Posted by Dr Mabuse
Good stuff here fellas.

I'll add the other two since they haven't been mentioned:

Fritz Lang's original 'Metropolis'.
They found the missing footage cut by Paramount last year in Argentina. It'll be on DVD this year.
Old 01-19-09, 01:14 PM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

Agreed on Greed and Magnificent Ambersons, the two films that first popped into my head.

Also, I know it was never intended for release, but apparently David Lynch's first cut of Dune was 10 hours or something like that. I'd like to see what that entailed.
Old 01-19-09, 01:28 PM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

For me, Der Januskopf.

Murnau's take on Jekyll & Hyde starring Conrad Veidt.
Old 01-19-09, 02:12 PM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

It was never put on celluloid but Orson Welles' Heart of Darkness with a suitable budget would be an amazing experience.

Last edited by rabbit77; 01-20-09 at 12:23 PM.
Old 01-19-09, 02:21 PM
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Re: Your Idea Of The Greatest Loss In The History Of Film?

I get depressed thinking about all that has been lost, but then considering that for about half of the cinema era the film itself was basically explosive Jell-O, maybe it's amazing we have what we do. What galls me more than what's rotted away is what was destroyed on purpose or through indifference, like:

Convention City (1934), which may have been the ultimate Pre-Code move. Or maybe not, we'll never know. So racy that Warners had all copies pulled and destroyed, although supposedly it was re-released in 1937 and the studio notes indicated the negative wasn't destroyed until the late 1940s.

A Star Is Born (1954). Originally released at about three hours, Warners panicked when distributors complained that the long running time cost limited their showings per day, and lopped off a half-hour, mostly of the early relationship between Esther and Norman. A complete soundtrack was found and the missing footage was replaced with stills, outtakes, and screen test footage. Supposedly a private collector has two complete prints, but hasn't been able to reach and agreement with Warners for them to use them.

Paramount sound films up to 1950. In the late 1950s, Universal paid about $50 million for all of Paramounts sound films up to 1950, with a few scattered exceptions (a few films previously sold to other studios, films tied up with sequel rights, etc.), between seven and eight hundred titles. This in itself wasn't a problem; what was is that Universal made indifferent, cheap copies of all of the nitrate materials from Paramount's vaults, and then discarded the originals. Any complete prints of Horse Feathers were probably a casualty at this time. Some of the Paramount titles owned by Universal look OK, some don't; some better copies have turned up in other archives. Most haven't been released on DVD. It's estimated that Universal made over $1 billion in TV rentals from these titles over the years.

MGM's archive of alternate takes, original audio stems, and other "extra" material, that was junked when the studio was passing through one of its ephemeral owners in the late 1980s, this time Pathe. A Pathe executive ordered the contents of the vault, deemed "not essential", to be junked. As would have been the case with the Universal/Paramount vault copies, one phone call to the UCLA film archive and then would have fallen all over themselves to preserve this material.

Welles's "Touch of Evil" is reasonably complete. Not so for "The Stranger" (elaborate opening sequence in South America cut) or "The Lady from Shanghai" (most of the funhouse sequence deleted). Also, Welles was so upset with the score ultimately used for "Lady" that he felt his temporary music track, put together from stock music library cues, would have worked much better. And of course "Ambersons".

John Wayne's "The Alamo". Edited after its initial release, the original "roadshow" version was thought lost. In 1990, a complete 70mm print in mint condition turned up in Toronto, and was used by MGM for a laserdisc release. Happy ending, right? Wrong. The print was cut into 1000 foot lenghts, misguidedly rinsed in a chemical bath meant to preserve it but actually accelerating its deterioration, and stored in a hot SoCal storage unit. After lasting for 30 years in cool Toronto, the print started to fade almost immediately, and is now requires extensive and expensive restoration, if it can be used at all. I don't think anyone considers "The Alamo" a masterpiece, but it's a shame that the chance to rescue this for good was wasted.

The story for "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" is similar: long roadshow version released, edited later, footage not preserved. Preservationist Robert Harris has tried to collect and reassemble as many original pieces as he could, and reportedly has everything except a short scene or two. MGM, with recent chaotic ownership and business problems, can't or won't put up the funds that would be needed to finish the restoration work.

Many, many stereo soundtracks from movies from the 1950s and 1960s were later junked by the studios.

Not film, but Winchell-Mahoney Time, ventriliquist and artificial heat pioneer Paul Winchell's inventive kid's show from the 1960s. In the 1980s, Winchell sued show owner Metromedia for a share of syndication rights. In a costly fit of pique, Metromedia destroyed all the tapes. Winchell was later awarded $17 million in damages, but the show is gone.

Other casualties:

John Ford's 50+ lost silent films
Most of the silent films of Oscar Micheaux, black film pioneer
Lost silent films of Louise Brooks
In the early 1950s, Jack Cardiff started [b]William Tell[/i] with Errol Flynn, in Cinemascope and color. The financing ran out and production was halted; supposedly about 30 minutes were completed, but has been lost.
Again, television, but the "Thin Man Returns to Vienna" episode of Orson Welles's excellent 1950s TV series Around the World with Orson Welles is presumed lost.

Last edited by obscurelabel; 01-19-09 at 03:03 PM.

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