Category Archives: Cinema

What A Bargain! Lost Chaplin Short Bought On Ebay

IT’S AMAZING what you can pick up on eBay for a pittance, as Morace Park discovered to his delight recently.

For Park, an antiques dealer and inventor, has wowed the movie community by stumbling upon a previously unknown, uncatalogued film starring the silent era’s king of comedy, Charlie Chaplin.

He bought the film for £3.20, not knowing the nature of the footage but liking the look of the battered tin it was contained in. Should he sell it on, Park can expect to receive £3,000 to £40,000.

The just-shy-of-seven-minutes short, entitled “Charlie Chaplin in Zepped”, dates from 1916 and features an interesting mix of Chaplin footage and early animation. The film starts with a shot of the real-life Chaplin before transforming into an animated sequence with his cartoon counterpart wishing he could return to England from America and support the British war effort against Germany.

According to an excellent article in The Independent he is then “taken on a flight through clouds before landing on a spire in England. The sequence also features a German sausage, from which pops the Kaiser.

The article notes that during the First World War there was some concern that Chaplin did not join the war effort. In fact tried to enlist but was rejected, but the film certainly helps boost the impression of the actor as a patriot.

Aside from working as a piece of personal promotion, the film has been interpreted as a form of war propoganda by Park and John Dyer, a neighbour and, handily, former head of education for the British Board of Film Classification. They are currently in America along with film-maker Hammad Khan, who has been enlisted to shoot a documentary on the discovery, for now simply known as “The Lost Film Project”.

They have a fair few mysteries to solve along the way, with the question of how the Chaplin clips – believed to consist of outtakes and differently framed/angled shots from The Tramp, His New Profession and A Jitney Elopement – came to be compiled in a ‘new’ production.

Diplomatically, Park describes Zepped as an example of “either piracy or entrepreneurship – depending on which side of the fence you’re on.” He is referring to the iffy practice by San Fransisco film company Essanay (to which Chaplin was contracted to between 1914 – 15) of exploiting the footage they had of the star to make ‘new’ Chaplin comedies. The result was a fierce legal battle over copyright ownership and could explain why Zepped never enjoyed a wide circulation. The discovered print seems to have been classified for exhibition in Egypt, which was then a British protectorate.

Film historian and author of Chaplin: The Tramp’s Odyssey Simon Louvish told The Independent he doubted whether Chaplin would have had a hand in the film’s creation.

He said: “There are a number of these compilation films around, and in Senegal there were a number of films that had been cut together by other people using Chaplin footage. Keystone Pictures was going bust at the time and footage from these Chaplin films was freely available.

“This is less so of the Essanay films. Chaplin by 1916 was signing multimillion-dollar contracts and was very aware of the copyright on his films.

“It would be no surprise though if someone in Egypt, which was under British occupation at the time, decided to use one of the world’s most famous figures to support the war.”

In addition to the Independent article, The Guardian has also covered the find and you can find that story here.

ilm historian Simon Louvish, author of Chaplin: The Tramp’s Odyssey, cast doubts on whether Chaplin would have been involved in its creation.

“There are a number of these compilation films around, and in Senegal there were a number of films that had been cut together by other people using Chaplin footage,” said Mr Louvish. “Keystone Pictures was going bust at the time and footage from these Chaplin films was freely available.

“This is less so of the Essanay films. Chaplin by 1916 was signing multimillion-dollar contracts and was very aware of the copyright on his films.

“It would be no surprise though if someone in Egypt, which was under British occupation at the time, decided to use one of the world’s most famous figures to support the war.”

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New Feature: Popdown Progress

BACK in April wipednews.com ran a feature about psychedelic music fan Peter Prentice’s to track down a copy of lost ’60s underground film Popdown.

You can read the original article here but things have moved on quite rapidly in the intervening months and Peter has kindly written an update on Popdown and saving the entire film archive of director Fred Marshall – Popdown Progress.

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Forgotten But Not Goon – Hoard Of Lost British Comedy Films Discovered

A hoard of lost films featuring the earliest cinematic appearances of some of the UK’s most famous comedians has been discovered after gathering dust in a garage for over 50 years.

The incredible collection – which comprises of more than 30 movies dating from the early 1950s – stars the likes of Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Sid James, Ronnie Corbett, Thora Hird and Prunella Scales.

Unearthed films include The Goons’ stars Sellers, Milligan and Harry Secombe in their first big screen production, Penny Points to Paradise, released in 1951 – the same year in which their famously anarchic BBC radio show began. Another Sellers and Milligan film, Let’s Go Crazy, was also in the cache.

The movies were all either made or distributed by Adelphi, a family-run company set up in 1939 by Arthur Dent, a one time British representative of Hollywood mogul Sam Goldwyn.

His company ceased producing films after 1956 but Dent stored negatives and prints in his garage in Highgate, north London, where they were forgotten about until his granddaughter, Kate Lees, recently stumbled upon them.

The treasure trove – which also includes The Great Game, a football-themed comedy featuring Thora Hird and Diana Dors; boy’s boarding school farce Fun At St Fanny’s, starring Ronnie Corbett; and What Every Woman Wants, a drama with Brian Rix and Joan Hickson – has been described as “a snapshot of a particularly prolific period of British film-making,” by Lees, speaking to The Sunday Times.

She has now handed over to the British Film Institute (BFI) for restoration.

Penny Points to Paradise and Let’s Go Crazy are set to be screened at the BFI’s cinema on London’s South Bank in July, before being released on DVD, with more releases expected to follow, funds-permitting.

You can read more about this exciting story by visiting UK comedy website Chortle here, The Sunday Times here, and the BFI website here.

Wiped hopes to bring you more information soon.

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New Discovery Spurs Campaign For Director’s Cut Of Nightbreed

Twenty five minutes of material cut from 1990 horror film Nightbreed and long-thought lost by writer/director Clive Barker has been located thanks to the efforts of an assiduous fan.

Intended as the “Star Wars of monster movies”, Nightbreed sadly failed to live up to Barker’s expectations with its theatrical release. Though he often expressed a wish to produce a director’s cut of the film, this seemed impossible as the excised footage was believed lost.

The closest fans of the movie could ever get to seeing the missing material was in some behind-the-scenes footage unearthed a few years ago.

But Barker may yet get to revisit his film after the revelation that the footage, said to contain “a song, some violence, some structure”, still exists – in the vaults of a film studio.

The discovery, announced on Clive Barker’s Revelations website,  is thanks to dedicated fan Mark Miller, who, as he is quoted on the site, “set out in search of the truth, armed only with a few phone numbers and the power of a name.”

Unfortunately, for now the studio (which isn’t named in the article) seems uninterested in assembling an extended cut of Nightbreed, believing the cost would far outweigh the sales returns.

Despite the bad news, the team behind the Revelations site still still hopes to change the studio’s mind and has started a campaign to get a director’s cut released. You can find out more about the story, and add your voice to the petition, by clicking here.

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The Art Of Deduction That Put Silent Sherlock Back Together

A Sherlock Holmes movie from the silent era that was feared lost for many years is to be released on region 1 DVD this July.

American video distributor Kino International will be releasing a reconstructed version of Sherlock Holmes (1922) on its own and as part of a four-disc John Barrymore collection alongside Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), The Beloved Rogue (1927) and Tempest (1928).barrymoresherlockholmes

The film, titled Moriarty in the UK, was believed completely lost until, in the mid-1970s, a number of negative reels were located at the George Eastman House film archives and pieced back together by film historians Kevin Brownlow and the late William K. Everson, with the aid of director Albert Parker.

The task required deductive powers the great detective would have been proud of, as William K. Everson explained in program notes for the Theodore Huff Memorial Film Society back in September 1975:

“Far more astounding than the film itself  are the conditions under which it was preserved. A few years ago all that existed of this film were rolls and rolls of negative sections, in which every take – not every sequence, but every take – were jumbled out of order, with only a few flash-titles for guidance, and the complications of Roland Young with a moustache in some scenes, without in others and a script that in many ways differed from the play, adding to the herculean task of putting it all together.

“However, with the limited help of director Albert Parker, who remembered but little of the film and who died while the reconstruction work was in progress, Kevin Brownlow… did piece it together, replaced titles and generally made sense out of an impossible jigsaw.”

Kino’s release, mastered from the 35mm George Eastman House Motion Picture Department restoration, is still incomplete – an estimated one and a half reels of footage are still missing – but the gaps are plugged by intertitles and production stills.

Click here to pre-order Sherlock Holmes from Amazon.com, or here for the John Barrymore Collection. N.B. These DVD releases are Region 1 only.

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