75 Lost Silent Films Returning to US
June 7, 2010 6:06 AM   Subscribe

A trove of 75 early American silent films have been found in a film archive in New Zealand and are being returned to the US. The Films are on old nitrate film stock, which in addition to being highly flammable (prompting those involved to ship them in steel barrels), is also prone to decay. The Films are being portioned out between 5 different restoration labs for transfer to modern film. Now if we could only get Robert Mugabe to play ball with the lost Doctor Who episodes.

Note: That screenshot is from Inglorious Basterds, in case you're unfamiliar with that scene.
posted by syntaxbad (13 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
That still at the top of the NYT article (the two women's faces in the little window) is priceless!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:20 AM on June 7, 2010


Correction: Not merely flammable, explosive.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:26 AM on June 7, 2010


I watched a film on nitrate a few years ago at the Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman House. Naturally, a bit of a fuss was made about the medium. It looked gorgeous. I can't remember what movie it was, but I felt at the time it was a special experience that I probably wouldn't get to have again. Now, maybe that's not true.
posted by knile at 6:33 AM on June 7, 2010


Wasn't there a comment in this last year by someone with lots of experience handling nitrate and other old stocks? I'm pretty sure it got sidebarred, if I remember correctly.
posted by TomMelee at 6:36 AM on June 7, 2010


Man, now I really hate Robert Mugabe
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:39 AM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Decasia is a great movie made from scraps of decaying nitrate silents.
posted by OmieWise at 8:09 AM on June 7, 2010


So no word on whether they found a print of the 1917 Theda Bara Cleopatra?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:55 AM on June 7, 2010


Right next to the long lost cache of Colin McKenzie films, no doubt.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:41 AM on June 7, 2010


Not merely flammable, explosive.

Burns real good. Hollywood used old stock for special effects - like the burning of Atlanta scene in Gone With The Wind.

We live in a disposable culture, we Americans.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:09 AM on June 7, 2010


God, I knew about the BBC short-sightedly reusing master tapes back in the day (which would be, you know, absolutely unthinkable today) and how that screwed us out of a lot of old Doctor eps, but I'd never heard about the Mugabe thing.

What an asshole.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:03 PM on June 7, 2010


Here's hoping some of the musicians who do silent film soundtracks get inspired by some of these films when they're released.
posted by immlass at 1:17 PM on June 7, 2010


I don't know if I buy the Mugabe Dr. Who thing. It mostly seems like a ploy to pass the buck--which certainly stops at the BBC, where it was systematically erased--onto someone who is already popularly regarded as one of the evilest douches that ever douched. Are they sure they never sold copies of Not Only But Also to Kim Jong Il?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:29 PM on June 7, 2010


This is a great find. I used to work at an film archive and had access to nitrate stock films. Many of the films were only bits and pieces of once full length films stored in cans which were kept in vaults. And every couple of years the archive would have to go through and essentially audit each can of film for deterioration. I know from that experience that there is more to be discovered out there in archives because often I was looking at films that were pretty much forgotten to time.

I'm sure the Pordenone Silent film festival is excited by this discovery.
posted by Rashomon at 2:07 PM on June 7, 2010


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