The hunt for the lost cult film 50 years ago

Apart from the poster, the only element proving the existence of London after midnight are the screenplay and stills from the film of Chaney in make-up and a top hat.

“He became infamous because of those striking images,” Murphy said.

“A lot of films were lost in this fire. People who would remember seeing London after midnight are starting to die too. It just became this seminal horror story because it’s one of the first vampire movies.

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A movie poster for London after midnight.

Australia has proven to be a place where lost films return. In 2009, the only existing print of the first full-color talking picture Mambamade in 1930, was discovered in Adelaide by film historian Paul Brennan.

The film belonged to an 80-year-old woman and her 85-year-old husband, who worked as a traveling showman in Australian backblocks.

Film collector Mike Trickett said many films had been found in Australia and New Zealand under similar circumstances.

“We were considered the end of the world at that time. Everything was coming by boat and they weren’t bothering to send it back,” he said.

“A lot of people who worked in film exchanges at the time were enthusiasts. While they were usually told to destroy the film, once in a while, luckily, some copies came out.

Even though London after midnight shows up in someone’s shed, it remains to be seen whether the film will be of good enough quality to be watchable.

At that time, movies were recorded on nitrate film, a highly volatile material that was the source of several movie theater fires. It disintegrates if not stored under appropriate conditions.


Murphy worked on his own self-funded documentary capturing the end of the era of cinematic projection, as films entered the digital age. It includes interviews with figures such as Quentin Tarantino.

When it is finished, he hopes to be able to tell the story of the discovery of the only copy of London after midnight somewhere in Australia.

“The movie world would explode,” he said. “Mamba caused a lot because it was so rare and it’s such an important movie, but no one really knew what it was.

“This movie leaked into popular culture. There are plenty of normal moviegoers who know about this movie just because they can’t see it.

“If it’s going to be anywhere, it’s going to be here.”

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