THIS IS NOT A MOVIE AS WE KNOW IT,IT'S A PHOTO BY PHOTO RECONSTRUCTION WITH SUBS THERE IS NO MOTION.
It's possible to "view" London After Midnight, the most successful (in box-office terms) collaboration between director Tod Browning and actor Lon Chaney, in only one form, a "photographic reconstruction" by Rick Schmidlin, who was also responsible for the reconstruction of Erich von Stroheim's legendary Greed. The difference here is that no motion picture elements still exist; the last known print was lost in a fire in the mid-1960s. Despite the loss of many hours of footage from Greed, the core action remains available on film. Schmidlin assembled stills and added a musical score by Robert Israel, using a shooting script to recreate the intertitles. It's a heroic effort, but the effect of the film is severely blunted by the lack of motion. Although Schmidlin does try to compensate for movement by panning across or zooming in on the stills, the story never really comes to life. It's missing not only the actors' movements but the sense of atmosphere that creative cinematography and production design can provide. Chaney's makeup as the vampire is as always fascinating, but because of the limitations of the plot, he isn't given much to do; he's more an apparition than a flesh-and-blood ghoul. This version, which premiered on Turner Classic Movies in 2002, clocks in at 48 min., considerably shorter than the film's original running time.
NOTES: LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT is a lost film, perhaps the most famous of all missing films, and it has become the Holy Grail of archivists and film collectors throughout the world. The last known record of the film existing was in the mid-1950's. Film historians William K. Everson and David Bradley both saw the film in the early 1950's, and an MGM vault inventory from 1955 shows the print being stored in Vault #7. A fire in Vault 7 in the 1960s appears to have destroyed the last surviving print. With all the publicity the missing film has received, it is doubtful that it resides in a foreign archive. The film was never sold to independent distributors, nor were the rights sold to another studio for a remake, so prints of the film would not have been available to anyone outside of MGM. Unlike many independent distributors, the studio was very diligent about collecting prints after the completion of their print run, making it unlikely that a retired projectionist has a copy hiding in his attic. Still, fil
ms have a habit of turning up in peculiar places and one can always be hopeful. The copyright on the film will expire in 2022 (recently changed from 2002 due to the Copyright Extension Act), and if a private collector is sitting on a print, it may surface then.