London After Midnight is probably the most famous ‘lost film’, the last known copy was destroyed in a vault fire at MGM in 1967. A silent film, it starred Lon Chaney as a madman running amok in a fantastic hat.
It has such a following that a few years ago Turner Classic Movies decided to pay for a reconstruction – so they had a 45 minutes version made using nothing but the publicity stills.
It’s a great peek at what the movie would have been like, but many film buffs were still not satisfied.
Film buffs like Sid Terror:
Meanwhile, the Monster Kid waited and time passed. Every time I’d get into an old movie theater, and there were many of them, I’d give the cursory look around.
There was the now long-gone Vitaphone Theater in Saratoga California. Once a silent house, this arch-ceilinged cavern of a Quonset-shaped auditorium had made the change over to sound around 1930 or 31. Still owned by the Butler family, amazingly, up through the 1970’s they still also ran old carbon arc projectors with their lead rods that constantly had to be adjusted. At 15 years old, I learned to project and do my first reel changeovers on those relics. – more
To be fair, Sid’s quest started well before TCM ever considered their remake, and the current conclusion is both amazing and heart rending.