5. The Story Of The Kelly Gang (1906)
It’s hard to have much foresight on how film would affect the world when it’s two years into the 20th century. So when the Australian film The Story Of The Kelly Gang clocked in at over an hour in running time (ten times the usual running time during that era), probably no one thought to preserve what would later be considered the first ever feature-length narrative film. The fact that it was a success might have been as good as any reason to keep it around – but it was also banned not a year later for accusations that it inspired a real-life crime.
Since being officially lost in the 40s, pieces have slowly been recovered over the years and there was even a restored – albeit much shorter – version of the film released in the 80s. So unfortunately the first feature-length movie has become a short film over time.
4. Cleopatra (1917)
1917 boobs are what we’re missing here. That and like, history. See, the movie was labeled as obscene thanks to more than a few semi-nude scenes involved. Later, two different fires at Fox and the Museum of Modern Art claimed the last two remaining copies.
Theda Bara played the title role – an actress apparently known for playing the femme fatale roles and had been during her peak as popular as the likes of Charlie Chaplin. Now she is the queen of lost film, as most of her work is gone. Still, her legacy will live on in the form of revealing stills from her 1917 role as the Queen of the Nile, the OG Elizabeth Taylor.
3. Humor Risk (1921)
A Marx Brothers film that doesn’t involve their signature roles is pretty neat to begin with – in fact, Groucho played the villain of this story. It was also written by the guy who did It’s A Wonderful Life and Gone With The Wind, so the historic significance is just piling up. Oh also, it was the first ever Marx Brothers film – so that’s kind of a big deal.
So what the hell happened? The story varies – as some say the film was simply left in the projector and thrown out accidentally, others say Groucho burned the only print because the audience didn’t like it. Others blame ghosts. Or at least they should.
2. The Mountain Eagle (1927)
Huge get, this one is, as it stands to be Alfred Hitchcock’s only feature length film that has been lost. Only 30 stills from the film remain as evidence of its existence, and it is currently number one of the BFI’s most wanted list of lost films.
All that, and yet Hitchcock himself described the film as “awful” and expressed being happy with its disappearance. So basically it’s like if the entire art community was going after a terrible poem you wrote in 9th grade.
1. The Majority Of Films Made By Georges Melies (1896-1913)
Considering that I’m only willing learn about George Melies if taught via a Martin Scorsese film, it’s a good thing that Hugo was apparently more accurate than it needed to be – the only real difference being the distinct lack of lovable orphans.
Along with resorting to owning a toy shop and making over 500 movies, most of his films were actually melted down by the army to make soldiers’ boot heels. It’s pretty damn sad to imagine the amazing work we’ll never see, and how they might have compared to his most iconic films.