London After Midnight
London After Midnight was a 1927 silent horror film, the last known copy of which was destroyed in a fire in 1967, making it one of the most eagerly sought after lost films.
Set in the 1920s London, the plot revolves around the apparent murder of a Sir Roger Balfour. Burke, an unorthodox inspector of Scotland Yard is sent to investigate the suspects but uncovers a suicide and the case is closed. Then, five years later, a man wearing a beaver-skin hat, with fangs and dark, sunken eyes accompanied by a ghostly woman with flowing robes and black hair, move into Balfour’s old house and strange things start happening, raising the question as to whether it is really Balfour returned from the dead.
Rumours abound as to the possible existence of copies of the film. The most persistant conspiracy is that a number of silent film collectors are hoarding copies, afraid that they’ll lose them to the rights holder, MGM, if they reveal their whereabouts, as well as other theories that the MGM has had the film on it’s shelves under another name, ‘The Hypnotist’, all along or that they are simply, for one of a number of reasons, suppressing it.
Curiously, the film was also cited in the 1928 trial of a man who murdered a woman in Hyde Park. The defence claimed that he had been driven temporarily insane by Lon Chaney’s performance as Balfour and had thus been incited to kill, however, the claims were rejected and he was convicted.
Although it is highly unlikely that any copy of London After Midnight does still exist, it is worth noting that another film, The Divine Women, starring Greta Garbo, which went missing around the same time, later showed up in Eastern Europe, whilst an original cut of Metropolis was discovered in Argentina in 2008.
A reconstruction, which might be viewed here, was made in 2002 using stills from the original film.
[Sources: London After Midnight | IMDB | Mike’s London After Midnight | The Bioscope | Thanks to Vintage-Royalty]