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Hey, wait!! Hold it a second, guys....how can a film unseen by the general
public for 75 years get any User Ratings? Granted, there may be some seniors
around who saw the film as children, but are they the ones rating this film
on IMDb? Or, are these merely false ratings made by silent film fans based
on the reputations of Chaney and Browning and the existence of some
tantalizing surviving stills from the film?
I think we need a reality check here: this film is lost, folks, and it's going to stay lost. All efforts to flush a print out of hiding have failed, including those of Turner, who owns the rights and have the most to gain by the film's recovery. (TCM will broadcast a stills-only re-creation of the film in October '02. Translation? Even the rightful owners of the film have given up hope! Does this tell you anything?) And, yes, while someone may have a print in a private collection, or in their attic, etc., it's a real longshot.
Don't get me wrong; the loss of this film is lamentable in the extreme. (The loss of any film is lamentable. The loss of any SILENT film is most lamentable. The loss of any CHANEY film is truly awful. And, the loss of any Chaney film featuring the coolest vampire get-up EVER is unspeakably awful!!!) But, I believe film fans need to let go of this one and move on. The reputations of Chaney and Browning will survive without this film. I believe our energies would be better spent putting pressure on archives and film libraries to release their long-held treasures to the viewing public, as there is a huge amount of silent material that HAS survived, but which goes unseen by all but scholars and the privileged few.
London After Midnight...the very mention of this lost film brings to
mind all of the other outstanding performances of the greatest ACTOR
that ever lived, Lon Chaney. It has been suggested by some that Lon was
only an O.K. actor, and that he let his makeups do most of his acting
for him. Nothing could be further from the truth. The talent of this
man is immeasurable. Yes, his makeups helped to bring his characters to
life, but it didn't define them. His ACTING inspired pity in Quasimodo,
the Phantom, and others.
I hope someday London After Midnight does show up so Lon's detractors can eat their words. If you are unable to look beyond the greasepaint, putty, false teeth, and wigs, and see a truly remarkable characterization, the fault is yours, not his. Having seen every one of his films that survive, (nearly twenty) I can tell you that some of his most unforgettable roles used little or no makeup at all! Try watching Tell It To The Marines or The Penalty and see what you think...
Lon Chaney shall NEVER die! He will live in the hearts of his fans forever.
Personally, I'm grateful that the elegant B&W production stills
survived in order that we can see what Tod Browning's production might
have looked like had it not been destroyed by fire.
It also helps if you've seen Browning's remake of this same story called THE MARK OF THE VAMPIRE ('35) with its surprise ending being made much clearer than it is in this reconstruction where there is only one caption that even hints at what was going on with the theatrics.
I was captivated by the dark-haired beauty of MARCELINE DAY and appalled at the silent histrionics of CONRAD NAGEL who wore the same look of horror and disbelief in every shot. The ending was blunted without giving a full explanation for any of the doings, which is why seeing the '35 version is advisable for anyone who is still confused.
The '35 version had BELA LUGOSI, LIONEL ATWILL and LIONEL BARRYMORE in key roles and was extremely well worth viewing. This silent version, reconstructed with stills, appeared to be beautifully photographed with appropriately cobweb-covered interiors and intense B&W lighting for atmospheric effects.
Chaney's make-up appeared to be quite startling--for me it was even more so than his "Phantom" disguise--and his Inspector Burke seemed a very forceful creation judging from the intense finger waving stills.
Well done reconstruction except for the weak ending which missed making its point. The background score was fine.
From the day that the supposedly 'last' surviving copy of the movie was
destroyed in a fire in the 60s, movie fans remained deprived of one of
the GREATEST gems the horror-mystery genre had ever produced - until it
was wonderfully restored in 2002, with very cleverly arranged scene
stills and a very atmospheric music score. Now, watching this
masterpiece of film restoration, you've REALLY got the feeling that
you're actually watching the movie itself...
And it shows clearly that this early example of the classic mystery movie was almost MORE than perfect in every way: the atmosphere of the old mansion (complete with vaults, cobwebs, ancestors' portraits and bats hanging from the ceiling) would become kind of a basis for all the films of the genre - and was probably only equaled in Browning's other unique masterpiece, the one and only "Dracula"...
The narration technique (using flashbacks) was quite modern for the time, as well as the police methods depicted: even hypnotism was used to solve this 'horror' mystery - a feature which would also be 'borrowed' from many a movie of the genre's Classic era in the 30s...
And, of course, we can see the actors (even through the scene stills) at their VERY best - especially Lon Chaney, who is simply fabulous as the horrifying, devilishly grinning creature; with THIS make-up, he'd even have scared 'Nosferatu' Max Schreck himself! A really GREAT experience for every real fan of the genre, and a lesson for film specialists: it shows how even a 'lost' film can almost be 'put together' again with the help of scene stills - a really ADMIRABLE piece of work done by the experts from the USC and the AMPAS!
The Turner Classic Movies recreation of this "lost" classic was unbelievably well done. The Recreation using still photos was close to experiencing it on film. The music was well suited to the theme. I sincerely hope that a print of this classic exists somewhere so that it can be seen.
To those who think that Chaney was just an OK actor, sadly have no clue
what they are talking about. To make a statement such as he let his
makeup do his acting also do not know that one of his most famous roles
as the drill Sergeant in "Tell It To The Marines".The role earned him a
honorary status among the Corp. So not only was Chaney a master of
make-up, earning him the title of a man of a thousand faces, but also
that of an exceptional actor with a range of emotions that could flash
across his face that would later inspire the likes of Burt Lancaster to
state "one of the most compelling and emotionally exhausting scenes I
have ever seen an actor do." Lancaster was referring to the scene from
"the Unknown" in which Chaney portrayed an armless knife thrower in
love with a young Joan Crawford.
To say make up was his "gimmick",is ignorant at best, it was more of an extension of the man and the actor. For Chaney didn't limit himself to just one area, physically he performed acts that would later bring him a place in film history such as the con artist that fakes being crippled to be healed by a charlatan in the "Miracle Man." The scene had people swearing that Chaney was a contortionist or double jointed, when in fact it is more a credit to his acting skills. Also in the "Penalty", he actually had a harness that he wore to bind his legs behind him and tucked into leather stubs. The pain allowed him only to wear the harness for fifteen minutes at a shoot, but Chaney insisted no trick photography be used. In "The Unknown", he had his arms bound up in a harness as well, you only have to watch the film to see not only the weird twist the movie takes, but also Chaney's cleverness.
Lon Chaney died at the age of 47. It is ironic that his last movie was a "talkie", a remake of the silent classic "The Unholy Three" in which he did more than one voice. That of an old woman, a parrot and a ventriloquist. He proved to audiences that he was more than capable of transcending silent to sound.
At his death production was stopped at Hollywood to observe a moment of silence, the Marine Corp flew their flag at half staff. Wallace Berry flew over his funeral and dropped wreaths of flowers. He said, "Lon Chaney was the one man I knew who could walk with kings and not lose the common touch."
"London After Midnight" is a combination mystery film and vampire
movie. Lon Chaney plays dual roles--a detective as well as a crazed
vampirey guy. Five years after a supposed suicide, weird ghouls move
into the dead man's house--and the detective returns to investigate. At
the end, the mystery is finally solved--though exactly how all this is
proved is baffling--like there is either something missing or it just
had a HUGE plot hole.
I won't give this film a numerical rating, as the film no longer exists--at least not in any known archive. Turner Classic Movies recently showed what purported to be "London After Midnight" and I saw it on a DVD with "The Unknown" but it was a strange reconstruction--a film that should have been left lost if you ask me. Using the original intertitles and LOTS of stills from the movie, they attempted to re-create the film--without any actual film! Now I am a die-hard lover of silents and especially love the films of Lon Chaney, but this sort of reconstruction is simply ridiculous. It just isn't THE original film nor is it even a truncated version--it's a bizarre attempt to recreate the film from nothing--totally bizarre. To give the film a sense of movement, the camera moves about the stills--but again, these are just stills! And so, the film is lifeless--with no more energy than simply reading the screenplay. I say with such re-creations it's best to just leave them alone and put your energy into piecing together films with PORTIONS missing--not the entire film! I've seen such re-creations (such as Frank Capra's "Lost Horizon") and since the missing portions are filled in with stills for only tiny portions, it's very acceptable. This one, in my opinion, was a HUGE mistake and not worth your time.
It's sad to say, I would probably not know much about this movie had it
not been reconstructed. I did not know it was a lost "classic" (with
mixed reviews). That's one of the reasons why I love projects like this
so much, they help manifest the place in movie history some lost movies
deserve. Another reason why I like projects like these, is that they
give you the thrill of getting as close as possible to seeing something
considered lost. Even though it's readily available, it feels somehow
exclusive. (Oh, the vanity!) Even though they managed to piece the
surviving stills and title cards together in an impressive coherent
way, I still did struggle to follow the plot at times. Still, I prefer
it over trying to recreate motion by editing the stills, as that can
easily seem silly. I did figure out the plot by the end of it, and must
say that I was not that impressed by it, but it has its charm. Playing
with the ideas of vampires, hypnosis and murder is always fun, to some
degree. The highlight to me was probably Cheney's make up. In the close
up on some of the stills you can see how he achieved those eyes, for
So, my high rating of this movie is not because of the inherit quality of the movie itself, but they enjoyment of watching a restoration of it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
WE RECENTLY HEARD a rumor that a print of this film has surfaced
somewhere here on Planet Earth. If this be true, we all can certainly
rejoice and be thankful. The last copy is said to have self-destructed
some years ago. Well, as our Jewish friends say: "From your lips to
WE DO CONFESS that what we have just witnessed was a recreation of the movie that used stills, clever moving camera techniques and some appropriately atmospheric music to give the World at least a facsimile of just what this Todd Browning-Lon Chaney collaboration looked like on screen. The stills that were pressed into service, like all production related photos, are probably a trifle more dramatic than would be the actual scenes. Some also tended to deviate from the actual story; being done that way as to make them good for Lobby Cards and Movie Posters.
HOWEVER, WE DIGRESS! Being that the existing photos are all that the production team of this restoration/representation were able to press into service, there is little room for neither complaint nor "advice" on just how they should have done it. We do give our "Hat's Off" to them for what we now possess.
AS FOR THE story, it is very well mounted and the sets are convincingly spooky and definitely "Vampire-like". The action moves along at a breezy, yet well paced clip. Time is taken to carefully establish characters, relationships and any motives that one would have to have been the murderer.
IF THIS SOUNDS like a sort of drawing room murder mystery, that's because it is fundamentally conformed to that particular genre. But it also has elements of what has come to be known as "The Old Dark House" school of thrillers. The elements are there.
OF COURSE, WITH the subject matter being that of an infestation of Vampires in the definitely upscale London Suburban neighborhood, we have always put the pigeon-holing in the category of a Fright Film. This would make the story, scenario and the film itself in the position of "Hard to Categorize."
BEING THAT THIS is a silent and came out for release about three years before Dracula (Universal, 1931), its vampyr lore is somewhat different from that which has become a sort of pseudo-mythology for vampires/vampyrs, lychanthropes (werewolves) and man-made electronically re-animated dead tissue creatures (Frankenstein). It was refreshing to have some references to "the undead" that dates to the 18th Century. Also there is some deviant "facts" about the Vamp's daytime slumbering habits.
IN SOME REAL life and behind the scenes oddities, we find many coincidental facts that parallel both London AFTER MIDNIGHT and Dracula.
FIRST OF ALL, both films were directed by Todd Browning. Vampires, as a subject matter, were central to both stories. Although it was Mr. Lon Chaney who was planned to have the title-role of Dracula in the movie, his untimely and somewhat premature death removed him from us before he could fulfill that assignment. It went instead to Mr. Bela Lugosi; who had portrayed the Transylvanian Count on stage.
FINALLY, THE SCREENPLAY was adapted to the movies from a story titled "The Hypnotist" which was written by Director Browning, himself. This would seem to mean that the treatment that was the final product was done up as it was intended.
WE ALSO DISCOVERED that Director Todd Browning was full of the devil and did not mind fooling us a little, or even a lot! Isn't that right, Schultz?
As of October 20, 2007, "London After Midnight" is a lost film - there
is no known surviving footage. Hopefully, a print or portion will be
discovered. Until then, TCM's 2002 reconstruction, by Rick Schmidlin,
will have to suffice - it was created by referencing the original
script and utilizing movie photograph stills. Robert Israel provided a
representative musical score. Cheers to all involved!
Before viewing the restoration by Mr. Schmidlin, consider watching the other Tod Browning (director), Lon Cheney (actor), and Merritt B. Gerstad (cameraman) collaboration "The Unknown" (1927); it may provide the best indication of how "London After Midnight" might have looked on the motion picture screen. Then, see Browning's re-make "Mark of the Vampire" (1935); its script closely follows "London After Midnight", and it will help explain some story elements limited by the movie stills available.
I'm speculating the performances of Lon Chaney (as Prof. Edward Burke) and Henry B. Walthall (as Sir James Hamlin) were noteworthy, but the story disappointing. Conrad Nagel (as Arthur Hibbs) must have been very impressive; he would shortly co-star with none other than Greta Garbo, in 1928 and 1929 films. And, certainly, Marceline Day was lovely (as Lucille Balfour).
******* London After Midnight (12/3/27) Tod Browning ~ Lon Chaney, Henry B. Walthall, Conrad Nagel
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