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These Classic Films Are Missing Footage That Has Never Been Found

Lost media has been defined as any media that no longer exists because of being deleted or destroyed, is missing due to some sort of archival issue or oversight, or is intentionally no longer available to the general public. It’s fairly broad category of items that range from lost art to lost television shows and even video games.

The public fascination with lost media is very understandable. It’s fascinating to learn about a piece of media that was once freely available but for some reason or another has been lost to the sands of time. It makes you wonder just how much of human history has been forgotten about or even intentionally erased.

In the realm of Hollywood, there are quite a few films that are sadly no longer available for us to enjoy. This is especially true of films that were produced around the turn of the 20th century when film wasn’t nearly as durable as it is today and it was impossible to simply digitize footage for archival purposes.

Studio fires are one of the biggest culprits for these losses. Countless films have been forever lost in blazes such as the 2008 Universal Studios fire, the 1937 Fox vault fire, and the 1965 MGM vault fire.

Apart from fires, some films have been lost due to a common practice back in the early days of cinema of filming over previously used tape. Apparently back then, no one considered just how historically important some of these early works would be considered decades later.

Some films are completely gone and will likely never be seen again while others are only partially lost. There is a chance that some collector somewhere will one day discover that they have a lost or partially lost film in their possession, but until that day comes, we’re simply left with what we have.

If you find lost media as fascinating as we do, keep watching to learn about several classic films that are missing footage that has never been found.

Fantasia

Disney’s 1940 animated musical anthology film is considered by many to be one of the greatest animated works of all time.

The film consists of eight animated segments that are set to pieces of classical music performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra which was conducted by Leopold Stokowski.

It was initially released as a theatrical roadshow with stops in 13 cities across the United States between 1940 and 1941. While now considered a classic, Fantasia initiallyt failed to make a profit largely because of the European Market being cut off by the second world war.

While the majority of the film remains intact, the original nitrate audio negatives for several scenes deteriorated decades ago. Disney brought in a voice actor named Corey Burton to re-record all of these lost bits of dialogue and re-released the film as the ‘original cut’ in 2000 for it’s 60th anniversary.

Metropolis

Fritz Lang’s 1927 science fiction drama was one of the first silent films to explore the genre. It’s heralded as being one of the most influential works of science fiction to ever hit the silver screen.

Set in a futuristic dystopia, Metropolis follows the tale of Freder, a well-off son of the city master, and Maria, a saint-like figure to the working class, as they overcome the enormous class divide in their city while uniting it’s workers.

A quarter of the movie was believed to have been lost until 2008 when an almost complete print was unearthed in Argentina. While most of the film has since been restored to it’s original glory, there are still five minutes of footage that remain lost.

The Idiot

Legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurasawa wanted his 265-minute 1951 film to be shown in two parts, but when the studio balked at this idea, the film was cut down into a much more accessible 180-minute version.

When the film was received poorly after it’s premier, the film was cut once again against Kurosawa’s wishes down to 166 minutes.

Sadly no print of the original version is known to be in existence. Before his death in 1998, Kurosawa spent a full week digging through the studio archives looking for the original tapes. Unfortunately, he came up empty-handed.

The Wolf Of Wall Street

This 1929 Pre-code drama film directed by Rowland V. Lee and starring Olga Baclanova, Nancy Carroll, Paul Lukas, and George Bancroft was originally made as a silent film but was entirely re-filmed with sound, thus making it Bancroft’s first talkie.

It followed a plot that involved a ruthless stock trader who corners the copper market before short-selling and making a fortune. After amassing that wealth, however, his life and relationships all fall apart, ultimately leaving him with nothing.

Only a few montage sequences of the film survive to this day. One of these was released in 2005 on a DVD collection called Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film.

The Red Badge of Courage

John Huston had extremely high hopes for his 1951 war film. He even at one point considered the original two-hour cut of the film to be the best he had ever made as a filmmaker.

After battling with some higher-ups over at MGM, the film was cut from it’s original two-hour runtime down to the 69-minute version that was released to theaters.

After early showings received horrible initial reviews, the film never was released as an A feature and instead was shown as a second-rate B flick.

Huston and actor Audie Murphy tried their best to buy the film’s rights so that they could re-edit it and release it at it’s original length, but their efforts proved to be fruitless.

It’s thought that the unseen footage was destroyed in the 1965 MGM vault fire.

A Star Is Born

The original cut of this classic musical ran at 181 minutes. For it’s general release, Warner Brothers cut the film down to 154 minutes.

For years that’s the only version of the film that the public had access to, but in 1983 a 176-minute cut of the film was released featuring the original multi-track stereophonic sound as well as several scenes that hadn’t made it to the final cut. Production stills filled in for missing footage, but it’s rumored that a complete print exists.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

When Stanley Kremer’s classic comedy film premiered in 1963, it ran at 192 minutes. The movie was then edited by the studio down to 162 minutes for a general release.

In the 80s, 20 minutes of previously thought lost footage were discovered in a warehouse that was slated for demolition. In 1991 this footage was restored, and the film received a re-release.

The remaining ten minutes of scenes were tracked down in 2013 but unfortunately a majority of the scenes found were still missing some footage or audio. These missing pieces are thought to be forever lost since the original 70mm prints have long since been destroyed.

Firelight

At the tender age of 17, multi-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg directed his first film. The 135-minute film cost just $500 to produce.

The movie premiered at a local movie theater and generated a profit of just $1.

The film’s plot followed a team of scientists who investigated a series of peculiar colored lights in the sky and the mysterious disappearance of people, animals, and objects around the fictional American town of Freeport, Arizona.

Spielberg later returned to the film’s subject material for his third full-length theatrical release, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

While film lovers no doubt would love to see Steven’s first work, only three minutes and forty seconds of the original footage has been released. This accounts for just 3% of the original film.

The Good The Bad And The Ugly

Clint Eastwood’s classic 1966 spaghetti western from director Sergio Leone is missing two completed sequences. One involves Blondie foiling Tuco with the help of a Mexican sex worker, and another is a sequence where Angel Eyes explains to Blondie just how he came about learning of Jackson’s gold.

Both scenes were cut from both the American and Italian releases and are believed to be lost. A small clip of the former sequence was used in a French trailer for the film, while a number of production photos provide evidence of the existence of both scenes.

2001: A Space Odyssey

After Kubrick’s 1966 epic sci-fi flick premiered, he cut 19 minutes out of the film for the general release. Seventeen of those 19 minutes have since been discovered in a Kansas salt mine where a number of other motion pictures were being archived, while the remaining two are nowhere to be found.

The Last House on the Left

This 1972 horror film was unusually graphic for it’s time. Because of this, many cinema operators made their own cuts to the film to tone it down a bit.

Sadly this means that the majority of versions of the film are missing entire scenes while others are missing some audio. A complete version of the film is thought to be lost forever.

The Wicker Man

The original negative and several film elements of Robin Hardy’s 99-minute 1973 folk horror film are lost and only survive in low-fidelity tape recordings.

A social media campaign was launched by StudioCanal in 2013 in hopes of tracking down some of the missing footage. This resulted in a 92-minute 35mm print being discovered at the Harvard Film Archive.

This led to the film getting re-released as a special ‘final cut’ edition a year later. While that cut is probably the best we’ll ever get, there are still 7 minutes of footage missing.

It’s crazy to think that the versions of these films we’re all familiar with aren’t even the ones their makers originally intended for us to see.

Hopefully some of the lost footage we just discussed will someday be found and we can see the full cuts of these classics.

Can you think of any other films or television shows that have been lost, or are there any other pieces of lost media that you know of that you think our viewers should know about? Let us know in the comments.

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As always, thanks for watching! We’ll see you soon with more videos covering some of your favorite Hollywood films, television shows, and stars.

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