This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
Dublin: 15 °C Sunday 26 May, 2019

10 lost, found and incomplete films

Throughout the history of cinema, there have been films lost, films found – and films that are still incomplete. We take a look at 10 of the most interesting examples.

THE LONG LOST Australian film Wake in Fright’s disturbing depiction of one man’s descent into darkness was considered shocking when it was first released in the 1970s.

Based on a novel by Kenneth Cook, the story focuses on the time spent by an English man in a rough mining town in the outback, and the grim situations he finds himself in. However, although it was considered to be a landmark work, the seminal Wake in Fright ended up being Australia’s “great lost film”.

The film negatives were thought to have been lost, but were found in Philadelphia one week away from being incinerated, and thanks to to a painstaking restoration, Wake in Fright will be available to view in theatres for the first time in 40 years this October.


It’s not the first important film to be rediscovered – earlier this month the world’s first colour film was unveiled. Unlike its predecessors, which used hand-tinted frames, this was able to capture colour in a process patented by Edward Raymond Turner.


Throughout the history of cinema, from the early days of silent film through to the evolution of the ‘talkies’ and onto today’s blockbuster-heavy Hollywood scene, there have been many films lost, destroyed, damaged or that have reels missing. Here’s a look at some of the most interesting ones.

  • Orson Welles – The Deep

Director, actor and writer Orson Welles is perhaps best known for his masterpiece Citizen Kane, but during his career (which stalled towards the end and saw him in debt and not as revered as he once was), he made The Deep, based on the book Dead Calm, which became one of his ‘lost’ movies. Though intended as a personal project, and filmed in Yugoslavia, some of its major scenes were never filmed, and the death of lead actor Laurence Harvey put paid to it ever being completed. The original negative has been lost, and the prints that do exist are rough. There’s also Welles’s ‘unseen masterpiece’, The Other Side of the Wind, which was reported to finally be shown in 2011. Here’s a further look at the lost films of Orson Welles:


  • Disney cartoon reel

A long-lost Walt Disney cartoon reel featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (something of a precursor to Mickey Mouse) turned up in England last year. The Guardian reported at the time that the film was found on a shelf at Huntley Film Archives, but no one knows how it came to be there as it was last seen during the time of WWII. The seven-minute-long 1928 film was auctioned off for $25,000 dollars at the end of 2011

  • The Daughter of Dawn

This silent film was made in 1920, and features an all-Native American cast. It was rediscovered in 2003 when a private investigator was given reels of film instead of cash, and then got in touch with the Oaklahoma City Museum of Art, who in turn contacted the Oaklahoma State Historical Society about the find. After the society bought the film in 2006, they restored it, commissioned a new soundtrack, and finally screened it in June of this year. Read the full story here.


  • The Story of the Kelly Gang

When this Australian film was released in 1906, just over a quarter of a century had passed since Ned Kelly died. The feature was filmed outside Melbourne, and thought to be lost. It wasn’t until the 1970s that parts of the ‘lost’ film began to resurface; in one incident children found parts of it in a dump.  The film was digitally restored and released in 2007 at a length of 18 minutes (it was originally an hour long). It was the world’s first full-length narrative feature film, and actually existed in a number of forms for around a decade, as additional scenes were filmed and added on.


  • Greed

With Greed, the auteur and actor Eric Von Stroheim attempted to make a film based on the American novel McTeague. The sprawling story (which is a rags-to-riches-to-rags tale of a dentist who goes from winning the lottery to living in squalor thanks to a jealous best friend) became an eight-hour-long film, and was ultimately edited down to 2.5 hours (or “mutilated” as the director said himself) by studio heads against Stroheim’s wishes. The original version from 1924 is lost; a restored shorter cut remains, but it still is not as its director intended it to be, using stills to make up the lost footage.


  • Wizard of Oz

Did you know there are a number of deleted scenes from the classic film Wizard of Oz? It originally was a little longer and featured a Jitterbug scene, which after the first test showing was deleted. Here are some clips of the song, which is about a strange creature called (you guessed it) The Jitterbug.


  • Upstream

This John Ford film was made in 1927, and was one of a number of films discovered in 2008 at the New Zealand Film Archive. The film received its first Irish premiere in June of this year, with IFTA chief executive Áine Moriarty saying at the time: “The importance of this extraordinary discovery of Upstream in 2009 cannot be overstated.”

  • Charlie Chaplin

In 2010, as the Telegraph reported, a lost movie starring Charlie Chaplin was found at an antiques sale. The 10-minute-long film was discovered by a cinema historian, who initially thought it was a Keystone Cops film. In 2011, another rare Chaplin film was found, after being bought for £3.20 on eBay.

VIDEO: Walt Disney’s animated guide to the menstrual cycle>

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article

Read next: