November 2009 Web Edition Issue #3
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Lugosi and Karloff—At Last!!!
by Michael Copner
Let’s start with the greatest news first, then put a few add-on items at the end. The news is that via the marvel of a Google search, anyone can now view the original trailer for Universal’s 1935 masterpiece, The Raven. Something film fans and collectors lamented, “We’ll never see!” A short while ago, I was searching around the ‘net and up came the pristine trailer for my favorite film; totally devoid of any splices or scratches—it appears as clear as the day it was shot. Where has it been secreted away (for over 92 years)?
It’s as action and thrill packed as the feature itself and very compact at 2 minutes long. The single most exciting fact is that the film is billed as starring Bela Lugosi (first!) and Boris Karloff—the only time Bela received top billing over his supposed rival.
Another treat, a mere click away, is a different preview for The Raven. It’s over 8 minutes long, likely created in the 1980s, for a VHS home-release of the film.
This brings to mind several lost films which have been of concern to followers of Mondo Cult. Most of you know it was a lifelong dream of Forrest J Ackerman, to see the “re-discovery” and presentation of the Lon Chaney film from MGM, London After Midnight.* From the 1970s on, I would hear now and then that London has been found and in mint condition—or some similar rumor. Alas, the presumed Chaney classic remains lost to fans to this day. Indeed, the closest we may ever get to having the London After Midnight experience, in the picture book Forry compiled some years back. London was a 1927 silent, and the Hollywood studios were abandoning their silents, having become aware that “talkies” were the thing.
Coincidentally, from that same year, is a lost classic feature by comedian Harry Langdon entitled Heart Trouble. Being a fan of Langdon’s surrealistic comic style, I was a friend (for over 15 years) of his widow, Mabel. We published several interviews with Mrs. Langdon in Cult Movies over the years. During one discussion, she told us of the efforts she and her business manager Raymond Rohaur made, to locate a print of this lost comedy. Their search of the storage warehouses on the grounds of Warner-First National provided no results.
Eventually they were granted permission to search at off-ground facilities where some of the early First National films had been stored for over half a century. They were kept in the basement of the Los Angeles County men’s jailhouse, downtown.
Mrs. Langdon told us she and Mr. Rohaur were accompanied downstairs and allowed to search for two days, in the murky depths of the jail. Overhead, pipes had been leaking for some time, dripping water onto the floor and rusting film cans, making the search most unpleasant. In a few cases, film tags had been washed away, making inspection of the leader the only means of identifying the prints. A few lost films got “discovered”, but not Harry’s missing comedy, now believed gone for good.
In 1970, I was well along in collecting feature films and shorts on 16mm. I bought a batch of trailers of Lugosi films and could tell, to present one example, that Invisible Ray was an original release trailer. Even more so was the one for Black Friday, since it concerns itself more with Manly P. Hall hypnotizing Lugosi than anything actually in the feature. I felt the one for Dracula a bit uncertain; perhaps a Realart reissue pr something, especially for TV in the 1950s. I couldn’t be sure. But I’ve spent years of my life lamenting the loss of The Raven trailer. If Universal was so meticulous about preserving their famous horror films and previews, how could they let The Raven fly away? Well, at last, someone must have gone digging deep in the vaults and found this treasure.
Every Mondo Cult reader is urged to watch The Raven trailer and see something new! Anyone with particulars about this rare find are asked to communicate with Mondo Cult, forthwith.
See the trailer on YouTube.
You can see 18 minutes of original frames from London After Midnight, restored after a 1967 fire, also on YouTube.