Gifford’s Most Wanted

Inspired by the BFI’s Most Wanted campaign to unearth 100 lost movies, I’m turning to my readers to help locate the TEN MYSTERY FILMS from Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies which I still haven’t tracked down.

(There are still lots I haven’t seen, but these are the only ten I haven’t been able to find copies of.)

Your help is needed! Facebook and tweet this post to all your filmy friends, and anybody who runs/works for/is an archive. I must see those movies!!!

I offer unspecified rewards. And you know those unspecified rewards are going to be pretty cool when I eventually specify them, right? Damn straight.

I’m going to write a little piece on each over the coming weeks, but here’s the Top Ten Lost Monster Movies in capsule form –

1) THE FAIRY OF THE BLACK ROCKS:  a 1905 period yarn with a skeleton flasher.

2) CASTLE SINISTER: still don’t know anything about this, except it’s Britain, 1948, produced by “British Equity”, whoever they were.

3) THE COUGHING HORROR: a 1924 melodrama that gives me a tickle in the throat just thinking about it.

4) MARIA MARTEN, OR THE MURDER IN THE RED BARN: not with Todd Slaughter, but an earlier, silent version. Another version, directed by Maurice Elvey in between these two, is considered lost, according to the BFI.

5) FIGHT WITH SLEDGE HAMMERS: likewise, a silent melodrama described as “The most thrilling film ever taken.” Taken where?

6 & 7)THE GORILLA: the 1927 version with Walter Pigeon, and the 1930 remake, again with Pigeon. Never seem to show up ANYWHERE.

8 & 9) THE TERROR: Roy Del Ruth’s silent Edgar Wallace adaptation with Edward Everett Horton and THE RETURN OF THE TERROR: Howard Bretherton’s sequel with Mary Astor.

10) THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE: with Pearl White. I’m sure this is hard to see, but not impossible, I hope! It qualifies for Giffordom by virtue of featuring a cameo by Jekyll & Hyde.

There are also four lost films (assuming none of the above are lost). The rules of See Reptilicus And Die do not allow me to neglect movies on the mere basis of their non-existence. So I’m going to see these too!

A BLIND BARGAIN:  a lost film, this, so a more creative solution is required.

THE CAT CREEPS: 1930 version with Jean Hersholt, Lilyan Tashman, directed by Rupert “PHANTOM OF THE OPERA” Julian. I wondered about this for ages, why it never showed up. Turns out it’s lost, a fact confirmed by the fact that it’s reviewed on the IMDb by fantasy novelist and wingnut F. Gwynneplaine Macintyre, who has reviewed nearly every prominent lost fantasy film. As a situationist stunt, this wins some admiration from me, though I wonder at the ethics of writing slams of films one hasn’t seen (unless one is ninety years old).

LA PHRENOLOGIE BURLESQUE: lost Melies — I’m resolved to bring this back into existence by sheer willpower (and, if necessary, bribery).

BALAOO THE DEMON BABOON: apparently fragments of this exist in Canada. Is there any way to see them without crossing the pond? Don’t make me come over there!

How does one see lost films? In ones’ dreams, certainly, the way Fiona saw Hitchcock’s THE MOUNTAIN EAGLE on my behalf. Or by reconstructions, which allowed me to stretch a point and tick LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT off my list. Or else by seeing fragments and trailers which might be said to stand for the whole, the way an organism can be cloned from a single cell. There may be other techniques, and rest assured, I’m open to all of them!

NB: such is the speed of development in my INSANE QUEST, I already have news about several of the top ten, which I shall report to you in following posts. But for now, I’m open to all info.

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16 Responses to “Gifford’s Most Wanted”

  1. The Fairy of the Black Rocks comes back with all kinds of dates on a simple Google search. Not too surprising for film of the period, but if we’re a bit flexible about the dates I think there could be a very good chance it’s by Spanish filmmaker Segundo de Chomón.

    There’s a ‘La fée des roches noires’ credited to him in 1907, and the skeleton in the picture looks like ones from his other films. I’ve got a copy of the film at home, so can check later, but for reference here’s a link to another contemporary Chomón film (Satan s’amuse, 1907) http://dai.ly/14zFpe

    Chomón is an otherwise brilliant, if slightly overlooked protege of Méliès, with a superb mix of magicians tricks, camera tricks and general phantasmagoria. Well worth checking out!

  2. Oh, I know Chomon — I wasn’t aware this might be his film, but it’s a distinct possibility. His name wasn’t well-enough known when Gifford was writing for mentioning it to be thought worthwhile, I guess. Whereas with a couple of his Melies stills, he names the director but not the movie.

    I’ll look into my secret sources and see if I can locate a Chomon of that title. If not, I may come calling!

  3. Don’t trust me, but I _think_ Everson’s CLASSICS OF THE HORROR FILM also has a still or two from THE CAT CREEPS (1930). If so, Gifford got there first anyway (1973 vs 1974).

    A* for Obscurity on the others btw.

  4. I’ll dig up a copy of the Everson and have a look.

    I’ve now examined the Chomon, with fascinating and mysterious results which I shall report on later…

  5. Randy Byers Says:

    By the way, F. Gwyneplaine MacIntyre died in an apparent suicide (by fire) in June:

    http://www.locusmag.com/News/2010/06/f-gwynplaine-mcintyre-apparently-dead-in-suicide/

    His past is shrouded in mystery, but people who knew him think he was born in the late ’40s. A very strange character, indeed. “He wasn’t the most reliable of autobiographers,” as Dave Langford put it.

  6. I’m sorry to hear that! I had a few emails from him. He had some impressive tale about being raised in drag in the Australian outback, wearing a caliper on his leg in order to pass as the deceased daughter of a woman who looked like Una O’Connor. I certainly hope it was true!

  7. [...] as previously established, Universal’s first talking horror film, THE CAT CREEPS, is now considered lost. [...]

  8. Randy Byers Says:

    I can’t help but think that there’s a movie to be made about F. Gwyneplaine MacIntyre – the Story of His Story.

  9. I’m up for pitching it as a documentary if you think there’s really a story…

  10. Randy Byers Says:

    I don’t know how deep MacIntyre’s mystery goes, but I’m fascinated by all the layers of hoaxing he indulged in and am curious to what extent he hoaxed himself. His defense of the hoax reviews he posted to IMDb was quite aggressive and sneering, claiming he had mysterious access to so-called lost films and anyone who didn’t believe it was a fool. He also flew off the handle when he made noises online about killing himself and somebody sent the police over to see if he was okay. Claimed the police intervention had so stressed out his invalid roommate that he had to go to the hospital. And then he offed himself in that horrible way, risking everybody else in the apartment building. (Was the invalid roommate still in the hospital, or did he even exist?) Whether any of the Australian history is true I’m not sure anybody knows. It doesn’t seem that anybody knows what his birth name was either, although his Wikipedia page asserts that Fergus MacIntyre was a legal name change and he acknowledged that Gwynplaine was taken from The Man Who Laughs. His friends in the science fiction world called him Froggy. And so on.

    There was a fascinating thread at Nitrateville after his death:

    http://www.nitrateville.com/viewtopic.php?t=6609

    Sorry if I’ve gone on at too great a length on this tangent.

  11. A Fight with Sledge Hammers!? Oh, I want! It beats Tear Gas Squad for the title of most evocative action title. Yep, the evocative title title. I can almost see the two swarthy blacksmiths going at each other hammer and tongs, which while lacking the more subtle pleasures of my imagined group of gas masked protagonists prowling through the smoke, it makes up for it in sheer force.

  12. From today’s New York Times, Sunday September 12th, a write-up on F. Gwyneplaine MacIntyre. I read through it rather quickly, but all I can say is, what a mess. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/12/nyregion/12froggy.html?th&emc=th

  13. FGM does seem more and more like a brilliant subject for a documentary. I’ll post his emails up soon, they’re full of erudition and attitude and quite overwhelming.

    I recall reading about a man who was challenged to a duel, and he wasn’t too keen. As the challenged party, he had choice of venue and weapons, so he chose a pitch dark coal cellar and two massive sledge hammers neither man could lift. Honour was satisfied.

    So I think my remake of Fight might consist of a black screen and five minutes of strained grunts.

  14. [...] previously noted, I am in search of two separate gorillas, THE GORILLA from 1927 with Walter Pigeon, and THE GORILLA [...]

  15. Castle Sinister has been released on region 2 DVD on a double bill disc from simply media along with Crow Hollow (1952). It can be picked up for about £10. Well, that’s one that’s been found, lets not lose hope on the rest. Best wishes to ya!

  16. Thanks! I eventually located that one. It’s pretty terrible, but in unusual, quasi-interesting ways. I’m glad I saw it.

    I think the only one left to see now that actually exists is The Exploits of Elaine, which is curiously hard to see, though some people do own copies.

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