Atlantis Online

Genres of Film & Literature => Horror => Topic started by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 08:26:02 pm

Title: London After Midnight - 1927
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 08:26:02 pm

Directed by Tod Browning
Written by Tod Browning (story, "The Hypnotist")
Waldemar Young(scenario)
Joseph Farnham (titles)
Starring Lon Chaney
Marceline Day
Conrad Nagel
Henry B. Walthall
Polly Moran
Cinematography Merritt B. Gerstad
Editing by Harry Reynolds
Distributed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures
Release date(s) December 3, 1927 (premiere)
December 17, 1927 (General release)
Running time 69 min.
Language Silent film
English intertitles

Title: Re: London After Midnight
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 08:27:36 pm

London After Midnight is a 1927 silent mystery film with horrific overtones. The film stars Lon Chaney, Marceline Day, Conrad Nagel, Henry B. Walthall, and Polly Moran and was directed by Tod Browning. It is also a lost film, quite possibly the most famous lost film ever. The last known copy was destroyed in a fire in an MGM film vault in 1965.

Title: Re: London After Midnight
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 08:29:13 pm

The setting of the film is (then contemporary) 1920s London.

Sir Roger Balfour is found shot to death in his home. Inspector Burke (Lon Chaney) of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. The suspects are Williams (the butler), Sir James Hamlin (Henry B. Walthall) and his nephew, Arthur Hibbs (Conrad Nagel). A suicide note is found and the case is supposedly closed.

Five years later, the old residence of Balfour is taken up by a man in a beaver-skin hat, with large fangs and gruesome, sunken eyes. His assistant is a ghostly woman, with flowing robes and raven black hair. Could it be Balfour, returned from the dead?

Title: Re: London After Midnight
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 08:30:52 pm

Chaney's makeup for the film is noteworthy, for the sharpened teeth and the hypnotic eye effect he achieved with special wire fittings which he wore like monocles. Based on surviving accounts, he purposefully gave the "vampire" character an absurd quality, because it was the film's Scotland Yard detective character (also played by Chaney) in a disguise. Surviving stills show this was the only time Chaney used his famous makeup case as an onscreen prop.

The film was well-received at the box-office, grossing almost $500,000. It was the most successful collaborative film between Chaney and Browning. Unfortunately, it is now lost: no copies of the film are known to exist, although there has been an attempt at a reconstruction utilizing the script and publicity shots. Browning later remade the film, with some changes to the plot, as Mark of the Vampire (Lionel Barrymore plays the police inspector and Bela Lugosi portrays the vampire).

The film was used as a part of the defense for a man accused of murdering a woman in Hyde Park, London in 1928. He claimed Chaney's performance drove him temporarily insane, but his plea was rejected and he was convicted of the crime.

The last known print of the film was stored by MGM in Vault #7. In 1965, an electrical fire broke out in the vault that destroyed countless films from the silent era, including this last known print. However, rumors persist that one copy of the film may exist in a private collection in Canada and that the owner has declined to bring the print forward for preservation.

Title: Re: London After Midnight
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 08:32:21 pm

In 2002, Turner Classic Movies commissioned famed restoration producer Rick Schmidlin (Greed, Touch of Evil) to produce a 45 min. reconstruction of the film, using still photographs. This was well received by horror fans and Schmidlin received the Rondo Award for his efforts.

Title: Re: London After Midnight
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 09:37:04 pm

Released 12/3/27 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Director: Tod Browning; Assistant Director: Harry Sharrock; Screenplay: Waldemar Young, from The Hypnotist by Tod Browning; Cinematography: Merritt B. Gerstad; Film Editor: Harry Reynolds; Titles: Joe Farnham; Settings: Cedric Gibbons and Arnold Gillespie; Wardrobe: Lucia Coulter; 6 reels (5692')

CAST: Lon Chaney (Inspector Burke/The Vampire), Marceline Day (Lucille Balfour), Henry B. Walthall (Sir James Hamlin), Percy Williams (Williams, the Butler), Conrad Nagel (Arthur Hibbs), Polly Moran (Miss Smithson), Edna Tichenor (Luna, the Bat Girl), Claude King (The Stranger), Jules Cowles (Chauffeur), Andy McLennan (Detective)

SYNOPSIS: Roger Balfour is found murdered in his London home. Inspector Burke of Scotland Yard is on hand to interrogate everyone in the house: the Butler, Sir James Hamlin, and his nephew Arthur Hibbs. Burke finds a suicide note from Balfour and the case is closed. Five years pass, and the vacant house is again to have tenants. Miss Smithson, the new maid, and Thomas, the groom, are arriving to open the house when they see a light in the window. Two eerie creatures, a man with sharp pointed teeth, and a woman with a ghost- like face, creep through the house and into the yard, frightening the maid and groom away. On the adjoining estate, Sir James hears Miss Smithson swear that she saw vampires in the Balfour house. Inspector Burke arrives and is staying as Sir James' house guest. Sir James is convinced that Balfour was murdered, and that the strange creatures in the house are linked to his death. Lucille Balfour, Balfour's daughter, is living with Sir James, and swears that she has heard her father's voice in the garden. Burke and Sir James enter the tomb where Balfour was buried and find it empty! Smithson screams from upstairs, and swears that a vampire appeared in Lucille's room and terrorized her. Arthur is in love with Lucille, and promises to protect her. Burke tells Lucille that he is convinced that her father was murdered, and asks her to do whatever he tells her so that he may catch the killer. That night, strange sounds and lights emanate from the Balfour house. Burke and Sir James investigate, and find Roger Balfour alive in the house. Later, Burke puts Hibbs in a trance and takes him back to the night of the murder. That night, a hooded figure enters Hibbs' room, but Burke is in the bed, draws his gun and fires, but the creature escapes. Burke finds a blood stain and knows that he hit the intruder. Hibbs awakens from his trance, and walking down to Lucille's room, he finds the room ransacked and Lucille missing. Luna, the mysterious woman, leads Lucille to the Balfour house where she sees the vampire. Burke sends Sir James to the Balfour house while Hibbs tries to rescue Lucille, but is restrained by Burke's men. Sir James arrives and comes face to face with the vampire, who hypnotizes him into a deep trance. Sir James enters the house to find Lucille and Roger Balfour, in reality a stranger disguised as Balfour. The vampire takes off his disguise, revealing himself to be Burke. He tells Smithson, a detective working with him, that a criminal will re-enact a crime while under hypnosis. Sir James tells Balfour that he hopes to marry Lucille, but Balfour says he will never agree to that. Sir James leaves, but sneaks back into the room, forces Balfour to write a suicide note, then shoots him. Burke steps in, takes Sir James out of his trance, and arrests him. He finds a bandage on Sir James' arm from where he wounded him the night before. Out in the hall, Luna's assistant is packing a bag that says "Luna, the Flying Bat Girl," and she says "Aw, stop kicking! We got more for doing this than we'd earn in a month at the theatre!" Hibbs escapes from the closet where he was held, and learns that the entire plot has been engineered by Hibbs to catch Sir James. Lucy kisses Burke on the cheek as he leaves.

"It is a somewhat incoherent narrative, which, however, gives Lon Chaney an opportunity to turn up in an uncanny disguise and also to manifest his powers as Scotland Yard's expert hypnotist. You are therefore treated to close-ups of Mr. Chaney's rolling orbs, which, fortunately, do not exert their influence on the audience." ---The New York Times

"There are moments during the onward sweep of this Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer offering when one feels that the essentials that make for mystery and creepiness have been carried a bit further than we have hitherto noted...Mr. Chaney's excellent work is materially aided by that grand master of screen acting, Mr. Walthall." ---Moving Picture World

"Will add nothing to Chaney's prestige as a trouper, nor increase the star's box office value. With Chaney's name in lights, however, this picture, any picture with Chaney, means a strong box office draw. Young, Browning and Chaney have made a good combination in the past but the story on which this production is based is not of the quality that results in broken house records." ---Variety

NOTES: LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT is a lost film, perhaps the most famous of all missing films, and it has become the Holy Grail of archivists and film collectors throughout the world. The last known record of the film existing was in the mid-1950's. Film historians William K. Everson and David Bradley both saw the film in the early 1950's, and an MGM vault inventory from 1955 shows the print being stored in Vault #7. A fire in Vault 7 in the 1960s appears to have destroyed the last surviving print. With all the publicity the missing film has received, it is doubtful that it resides in a foreign archive. The film was never sold to independent distributors, nor were the rights sold to another studio for a remake, so prints of the film would not have been available to anyone outside of MGM. Unlike many independent distributors, the studio was very diligent about collecting prints after the completion of their print run, making it unlikely that a retired projectionist has a copy hiding in his attic. Still, films have a habit of turning up in peculiar places and one can always be hopeful. The copyright on the film will expire in 2022 (recently changed from 2002 due to the Copyright Extension Act), and if a private collector is sitting on a print, it may surface then.

Despite all the mythology and excitement over the film, all indications are that it would be a disappointment if uncovered today. Both Everson and Bradley admit that the film was inferior to Browning's 1935 talkie remake THE MARK OF THE VAMPIRE that starred Bela Lugosi and Lionel Barrymore sharing the dual role played by Chaney. The critics of the time were likewise lukewarm, and even Chaney's performance got less than the usual enthusiastic reviews. The eerie Cedric Gibbons-Arnold Gillespie sets, and Chaney's stunning vampire make-up, make for intriguing still photographs, but these scenes account for only a small portion of the film, the rest of the footage being devoted to Polly Moran's comic relief, and talkie passages between detective Chaney and Walthall. Perhaps it is a film that is viewed with more reverence that it deserves simply because it is no longer available for study.

The film was shot in an amazing 24 days, for only $152,000...the shortest schedule and the lowest budget of any of Chaney's MGM films. Foreign bookings of the picture were below average, but domestic sales ($721,000) were quite high, putting it near the top of MGM's 1927-28 hit parade, just behind WHITE SHADOWS IN THE SOUTH SEAS, THE COSSACKS, and THE STUDENT PRINCE IN OLD HEIDELBERG. As a result, the film earned a hefty $540,000 profit for the studio, one of the top figures for any of Chaney's films.

Those interested in reading the definitive work on LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT are referred to London After Midnight by Philip J. Riley (Cornwall Books), a detailed reconstruction of the film with extensive production notes.


1997 Jon C. Mirsalis


Title: Re: London After Midnight
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 09:41:43 pm

LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT is a 1927 film starring Lon Chaney and directed
by horror auteur Tod Browning. It is a lost film and it is mentioned
to torment Jon Mirsalis, a/k/a ChaneyFan.

Q. I heard that a collector has LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT and is waiting
for its copyright to expire so he can release the film.  Is this

A: Almost certainly not.

Tod Browning's LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (1927), starring Lon Chaney
Sr. in a dual role as a Scotland Yard inspector and as a pointy-toothed
vampire, is the most famous of lost films -- mainly because Forrest
J. Ackerman, with the aid of the film's admittedly tantalizing
stills, spent a lot of energy hyping it as a lost masterpiece in
his teen-oriented horror magazines.  The reality is that those who
saw the film as late as the 1950s, such as William K. Everson and
David Bradley, considered it well short of a masterpiece -- inferior
to Browning's talkie remake, MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935), with Bela
Lugosi, and not even the most desirable lost film of Chaney's

The most persistent rumor about LAM is that some collector has the film and
has been waiting for the copyright to expire in 2002.  The legend probably
dates back to the early 70's, when a New England rental source named Cecil
Miller listed LAM among his upcoming titles, presumably as a gag.  (Later
versions of the same gag have included reviews of the film on the Internet
Movie Database and April Fool's discussions of showings on Turner Classic
Movies in alt.movies.silent.)  This mythical collector is in for a longer
wait now -- copyright law has been changed, making the date LAM would become
public domain 2022.  For that reason, it is likely that any such collector
who wanted to cash in during his own lifetime would have already come
forward to make a deal with the current copyright holders (Time Warner).

In fact, the odds are not high that any print ever got loose in the first
place.  According to Jon Mirsalis, MGM "was very diligent about collecting
prints after the completion of their print run, making it unlikely that a
retired projectionist has a copy hiding in his attic... The last time the
film was inspected by MGM was in 1955.  It was stored in vault 7 and a
vault fire (circa 1967) in vault 7 destroyed the last known print.  All the
MGM nitrate material was subsequently donated to Eastman House, but by then
the print and camera negative were gone."  As Bob Birchard further points
out, "MGM did a worldwide search when it decided to copy its nitrate to
safety in the 1970's," and turned up nothing.

Even so... another MGM film that vanished around the same time was
Victor Sjostrom's THE DIVINE WOMAN, with Greta Garbo.
Yet a ten-minute fragment of that film subsequently turned up in
Eastern Europe.  So the possibility that LAM will turn up in some
unexpected place cannot be ruled out completely.  Just... nearly

In the meantime, the closest you are likely ever to come to seeing
LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT is in the pages of Philip J. Riley's
book LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, published by Cornwall Books in
1985 -- and by watching MARK OF THE VAMPIRE.

[Thanks to Michel Gebert for the above information on

Title: Re: London After Midnight - 1927
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 09:50:50 pm
Film Review: London After Midnight (1927)        

Written by Gary Sweeney      


London After Midnight was released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer on December 3, 1927. Based on director Tod Browning's original story The Hypnotist, it was initially given a working title of the same name. The film has become legendary for its lack of availability. A fire in MGM's "Vault #7" is said to have destroyed the only known print in the mid-1960s. There has been speculation by many that a surviving print is still in existence, though one is yet to surface for public appreciation. In 2002, Turner Classic Movies commissioned Rick Schmidlin to produce a reconstruction of the film using still photographs. With a running time of 45 minutes and a new score by the Robert Israel Orchestra, it's the best representation of the 1927 classic that we have at present.

An Englishman named Richard Balfour is found dead on his floor, the victim of a gunshot wound. Detective Edward Burke (Chaney) is on the scene to investigate fifteen minutes after the crime. Burke suspects everyone despite an apparent suicide note from Balfour in which he apologizes to his daughter Lucille (Marceline Day). Balfour's next door neighbor, Sir James Hamlin (Henry B. Walthall), claims that he ran into the house after being awakened by the shot. Burke's main suspect of interest, however, is Hamlin's nephew Arthur Hibbs (Conrad Nagel). Hibbs maintains that he'd been in his room reading at the time of the murder. Burke is clearly unconvinced but warrants it a suicide in light of the note. Five years pass and the desolate Balfour mansion is rented to a pair of sinister characters in strange clothing. The man (Chaney again, in a dual role) is an eerie, maniacal-looking version of Scrooge, complete with top hat and a flowing, black cape. His face is a recipe for nightmares; his eyes ripped wide open and his mouth carved in a perpetual smile to reveal a set of razor-sharp teeth. He walks with a twisted limp like an entity feeling the effects of centuries past. His female counterpart, Luna (Edna Tichenor), is the representation of death itself. Her skin is pale and lifeless, her teeth are darkened and her eyes are sunken and hollow. They appear to communicate strictly by look and expression, the latter of which is driven by ill intent. Balfour's butler Williams (Percy Williams) arrives at the mansion with the new maid Miss Smithson (Polly Moran, who'd worked with Browning in 'The Unknown' and 'The Show') as a ghostly light fills the windows. Smithson recoils in horror and shouts that the house is haunted. Both Williams and Smithson are frozen in fear as the two 'creatures' appear in the driveway. They do little but stare with a menacing calm, but it's enough to frighten the unsuspecting duo trembling in their horse-drawn carriage. One night, out of the blue, Hamlin receives a visit from 'Professor' Edward Burke (the same detective from years ago in a feeble disguise to make him appear older). Hamlin is the executor of Balfour's will and receives a copy of the signed lease, which, to the horror of everyone, is signed by Balfour! Burke wants answers and again suspects Hibbs and Hamlin. Lucille, who now lives with Hamlin, may be in grave danger.

Title: Re: London After Midnight - 1927
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 09:52:04 pm

Smithson swears that the unsettling inhabitants next door are vampires. In fact, she all but concludes that they are directly responsible for Balfour's death. She has no concrete proof, but the darkness of their soul is enough to justify her accusation. Lucille is suddenly startled by the voice of her father, which she claims to have heard coming from the outside garden. Burke springs into action and promises to do whatever he can to protect her. As Burke and Hamlin investigate Balfour's final resting place, they are shocked to find it empty and take to peeking through the window of the mansion. There, they see Balfour, who appears to be very much alive, sitting upright in a chair talking with the vampire. This is a natural cause for alarm. Burke returns to the house and places Hibbs under hypnosis in order to force his mind back to the night of Balfour's "murder". Burke himself is visited by an unknown, hooded creature that evening while asleep. He awakens and draws his gun, but not before the nocturnal being escapes into the night. Once Burke snaps Hibbs out of his trance, they find Lucille's room turned completely upside down and Lucille missing. Luna has lured Lucille to the decrepit mansion, but when Hibbs attempts to rescue her, he is restrained by Burke's men. There is a much more enigmatic plot in the works; there is a hidden agenda. Before long, everyone in the mixed up chain of events will learn the truth about what is really going on in London, after midnight.

Title: Re: London After Midnight - 1927
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 09:53:13 pm

In the eight films that Tod Browning made with Lon Chaney, London After Midnight proved to be the highest grossing film. Iowa's The Davenport Democrat and Leader, which called it one of the greatest mystery-dramas Lon Chaney ever appeared in, had this to say shortly after the release in 1927: "Fascinating with its theme of hypnotism, its delving into the super-natural and the spirit world, this film employs enough mystery to chill the blood of the spectator and yet rivet the eye and attention in a breathless interest." It's no secret that Browning was a fan of the macabre. His films are centered largely on carnivals and circuses, as is evident with The Show, The Unholy Three and Freaks. Chaney was a favorite of Browning's, no doubt for his ability to 'become' so many characters. Dubbed "The Man of a Thousand Faces", Chaney provided Browning with an endless string of manifestations that accented the director's morbid taste. This film (based on the still reconstruction), was very gothic in appearance. The mansion and the adjacent house, both inside and out, seemed to be designed with uneasiness in mind. The look of the vampire is an assumed nod to the legend of Jack the Ripper. History paints the ripper as a quiet maniac strolling London's Whitechapel district in Victorian dress under a blanket of darkness. The film does indeed take place in London and the vampire's clothing is that of Ripper lure. It's quite conceivable that Browning may have been captivated by the Ripper story and wanted to draw inspiration for a monster from the heinous crime. Unfortunately, we'll never know for sure. Browning was somewhat of a recluse who rarely spoke about his work, and so most of his secrets and motives rest with him at Rosedale Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

Title: Re: London After Midnight - 1927
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 09:54:04 pm


London After Midnight was released on DVD in 2003 by Warner Home Video as part of the "Lon Chaney Collection". Again, due to the original print being destroyed, there is little to be said for restoration work. However, this reconstruction was done as effectively as humanly possible. The resources were limited to still photographs collected with the help of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Studies, the Margaret Herrick Library and the University of Southern California Cinema-Television Library. The new score by the Robert Israel Orchestra was a satisfying highlight that worked nicely, despite having no prior music reference to help set the mood. For the enthusiast, this is certainly better than nothing. We can only hope that somewhere, a surviving print exists and will resurface in the years to come. Until that day, this reconstruction will serve as the resurrected ghost of a great film that once terrified the masses.


One can only imagine this chilling masterpiece in full motion. The 'choppiness' of an aging silent film would've added another layer of fright, were we able to enjoy it in its entirety. There are many silents presumed lost, and that this film took precedence says a lot for Tod Browning and Lon Chaney. In all honesty, it would be fantastic to experience every missing silent film on some level. Perhaps this will serve as a reminder to the studios that there are scores of loyal fans who still love the ancestors of present day Hollywood.

Title: Re: London After Midnight - 1927
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 09:55:49 pm

Title: Re: London After Midnight - 1927
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 09:57:19 pm

Title: Re: London After Midnight - 1927
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 09:59:17 pm

Title: Re: London After Midnight - 1927
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 10:01:13 pm

Title: Re: London After Midnight - 1927
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 10:02:14 pm

Title: Re: London After Midnight - 1927
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 10:04:22 pm

Title: Re: London After Midnight - 1927
Post by: Creighton on October 31, 2007, 10:07:56 pm