So the news this week was very exciting for fans of vintage films, and especially for those whose dreams are haunted by thoughts of lost films rediscovered. Hot on the heels of Kino’s announcement of a new DVD release of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, due next year and apparently a further improvement on their previous (superb) release, came word that a completely uncut version of the film had been found in Argentina. That, friends and neighbours, is BIG. The full three-hour-plus version of the film hasn’t been seen since the original release, and not everywhere at that. In recent years, we’ve seen some pretty fine editions of the film, but all of them have had to make do with extensive summaries and mouth-watering stills to fill in the gaps. Certain characters that barely show up, if at all, in what has been seen to date, actually have quite substantial roles in the full version. And now it has been found. True, it’s in pretty rough shape, but it exists, and no doubt a full restoration effort is underway. Kino has apparently said that the found footage might well be added to the forthcoming DVD.
So let’s savour the thought for a moment. An uncut Metropolis. Who would have thought that we would ever see the day. I know I didn’t. One can’t but think that just about every lost film that might be found, has been found, and then this happens. One begins to hope again. Maybe other mythical beasts will turn up after all.
Those of you who, like me, think about these things, let’s all make a clean breast of things and admit what we’re thinking: if a full Metropolis exists after all, maybe somewhere a print of London After Midnight might turn up too. I know, I know: yeah, right. But one can dream. Nevertheless, even with the good news of this week, London After Midnight‘s only print is most likely sitting in Nessie’s private collection. So no holding our breath there. But while we’re dreaming, where are releases of films that are not quite as elusive? I’ve already, in this space, expressed my wish for a legitimate DVD release of Seven Footprints to Satan. This is NOT a lost film. I’ve seen it on VHS. So what’s the hold-up? Then there’s The Golem – not the 1920 film, which was given a wonderful treatment a few years back by (who else?) Kino – but the the 1914 original. I remember, many years ago, an issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland that recounted how a print had been rediscovered. How intact that print might be, I have no idea, but anything is better than nothing. For a taste, check out video.filestube.com/video,ba5f8176751b34b303e9.html. (Granted, this is so blurry it could almost be a lousy print of the 1920 prequel, and my German isn’t up to translating the commentary, but let’s take things on faith, just for the sake of argument.)
There are so many more to wonder about, particularly from the silent era. Look through any horror film history, and you’ll find a parade of stills from the dawn of the genre that are simply fascinating, but the chances of ever seeing the films themselves are, of course, next to zero. But, as I said before, one can dream.
And after that discovery in Argentina, one can, perhaps, do more. One can hope.