Lost Chaplin film found... for under $6 on ebay
Published On Fri Nov 06 2009 Toronto Star
Charlie Chaplin fans were seizing on the news Friday that a lost film of the comic genius had been found on eBay for $5.68.
Morace Park, who lives in Essex, England, bought the battered olive green film canister listed as "an old film" for £3.20, and found the title Charlie Chaplin in "Zepped" inside.
His neighbour, John Dyer, former head of education at the British Board of Film Classification, knew the legend of the lost seven-minute film that includes a Zeppelin bomb attack. Released in 1916, it was believed to be World War I propaganda to reduce fear in Britain of German airship attacks, but the film vanished years ago.
Most recently, a Russian film academic article reported in 2006 that "the film has not survived."
"It starts with live shots of Chaplin," Park told The Guardian newspaper. "It then turns into a dreamscape. We see a Zeppelin bombing attack. And then we see Chaplin taking the mickey out of the Zeppelin, at the time a powerful instrument of terror."
Michael Pogorzelski, director of the archive at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles, told The Guardian: "It is an extremely interesting find" believed to be put together from outtakes of earlier films and shots of Zeppelins and other material.
The fragile 35 mm nitrate film should be transferred to film quickly to preserve it, said Pogorzelski.
After their discovery, Park and Dyer set out on what's now a month-long odyssey to Hollywood to piece together the story of Zepped, blogging and tweeting as they went. On Friday, they were in Los Angeles with filmmaker Hammad Khan, who was making a documentary about the discovery.
"We found a film. A lost film. But not just any old lost film," they reported on lostfilmproject.wordpress.com Oct. 9. "We think we might have made THE cinematic find of the last 100 years. It's something we feel compelled to get to the bottom of. And quick."
Later, they speculated: "Is it really that one in a million opportunity to grab a ride on what could turn out to be something quite remarkable and memorable – and not just for ourselves? These questions will persist, no doubt. But there's no turning back for sure. Of that I'm convinced. And that alone, is a little bit scary."
On Nov. 1 on Twitter, http://www.twitter.com/lostfilmproject, they disclosed what they had. Slowly word trickled out, first in Variety, the entertainment trade magazine, and then in several British newspapers on Friday.
As early as three weeks ago, fans at the online Charlie Chaplin Club started buzzing about the possibility Zepped still existed.
When an enthusiast with the screen name "Copper" at the Charlie Chaplin Club agitated to see a clip once the discoverer verified the news, Park doused him with, "Have patience. It's a little tricky getting nitrate film transferred."
The film was produced by the Essanay film company, to which the 25-year-old Chaplin was under contract in 1915 and where he established the Little Tramp character that would make him a superstar.
WOW. That is amazing.
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