As today is April 1st, we thought to offer you a kind-of cautionary tale . . . about some of the "shadowy" figures which lurk in the very shadows of film land. They sit, spellbound in darkness, inhabiting that not quite black, not quite white world known as . . . . well, we're not quite sure what to call it.
It was a dark and stormy night . . . when one such figure crossed our paths at the SFSFF Winter Event in December. The Festival had just screened West of Zanzibar (1928). This Tod Browning directed film stars Lon Chaney as "Dead Legs," a magician who seeks revenge upon his rival, dramatically played by Lionel Barrymore. Oh what a tale it told!
Well, anyways, like we were saying, lurking about the Castro Theatre mezzanine was a somewhat suspect figure who caught our eye - and who was in turn caught by the paparazzi in the very act, yes, we declare - the very act, of concealing valuable nitrate film beneath his jacket! (See image above.) Who this strange and mysterious personage was we cannot say, but we did notice a rather curious and perhaps not uncoincidental resemblance to a certain other figure who was on everyone's mind that very evening. (See figure below.)
We invite comparison. Notice the intense gaze. Notice the gripping hand. Notice the concealment of mysterious matters beneath the jacket. For heaven's sake, notice the grin! Are they not one and the same?
When confronted, this somewhat shadowy figure became agitated - and admitted being drawn to the event in question because of the Browning / Chaney motion picture being projected upon the screen. "Ha, ha," we thought to ourselves, "that proves it."
And, when pressed to reveal the nature of the film he so gripped in his possession - he blurted out "London After Midnight." All were amazed! Could it be that this legendary lost film had been found? Could it be this somewhat suspect, somewhat shadowy figure possessed what so many others have so long sought? Could it be? The answer to these questions may never be known, as this shadowy figure soon disappeared into the gray night, taking with him those fragments of film with which he astonished us all. He is legend.
And now, all that remain are these few "frames" found on youtube.