London After Midnight (film)

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London After Midnight
London After Midnight.jpg
Lobby card
Directed by Tod Browning
Produced by Tod Browning
Irving Thalberg (uncredited)
Written by Waldemar Young (scenario)
Joseph Farnham (titles)
Based on "The Hypnotist" 
by Tod Browning
Starring Lon Chaney
Marceline Day
Conrad Nagel
Henry B. Walthall
Polly Moran
Claude King
Cinematography Merritt B. Gerstad
Editing by Harry Reynolds
Irving Thalberg (uncredited)
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • December 3, 1927 (1927-12-03) (United States)
Running time 69 mins.
Country United States
Language Silent
English intertitles

London After Midnight (also known as The Hypnotist) was a 1927 American silent mystery film with horror overtones distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film is based on the short story "The Hypnotist" by Tod Browning who also directed the film. London After Midnight starred Lon Chaney, Marceline Day, Conrad Nagel, Henry B. Walthall, and Polly Moran.

The movie is now lost and remains one of the most famous and eagerly sought of all lost films. The last known copy was destroyed in the 1967 MGM Vault fire. In 2002, Turner Classic Movies aired a reconstructed version using the original script and film stills.[1]

Synopsis[edit]

The setting of the film is 1920s London. Sir Roger Balfour is found shot to death in his home. Inspector Burke (Lon Chaney) of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. The suspects are Williams (the butler), Sir James Hamlin (Henry B. Walthall) and his nephew, Arthur Hibbs (Conrad Nagel). A suicide note is found and the case is supposedly closed.

Five years later, the old residence of Balfour is taken up by a man in a beaver-skin hat, with large fangs and gruesome, sunken eyes. His assistant is a ghostly woman, with flowing robes and raven black hair. Could it be Balfour, returned from the dead?

Cast[edit]

Production notes[edit]

Chaney's makeup for the film included sharpened teeth and the hypnotic eye effect he achieved with special wire fittings which he wore like monocles. Based on surviving accounts, he purposefully gave the "vampire" character an absurd quality, because it was the film's Scotland Yard detective character (also played by Chaney) in a disguise. Surviving stills show this was the only time Chaney used his famous makeup case as an on-screen prop.

Reception[edit]

The film grossed almost $500,000 at the box office, becoming the most successful collaborative film between Chaney and Browning. However, accounts by filmgoers and critics who saw the film before its destruction in 1967 (including film historian William K. Everson) suggest it was not one of Chaney and Browning's strongest films.

Reconstruction[edit]

In 2002, Turner Classic Movies commissioned restoration producer Rick Schmidlin to produce a 45 minute reconstruction of the film, using still photographs.[1] The following year, the reconstructed version was released as a part of The Lon Chaney Collection DVD set released by the TCM Archives.[2]

Remake[edit]

Tod Browning remade the film as a talkie called Mark of the Vampire in 1935 with Lionel Barrymore and Bela Lugosi playing Chaney's roles.

In popular culture[edit]

A novelization of the film was written and published in 1928 by Marie Coolidge-Rask.

The film was used as a part of the defense for a man accused of murdering a woman in Hyde Park, London in 1928. He claimed Chaney's performance drove him temporarily insane, but his plea was rejected and he was convicted of the crime.

This film also played a big part in the final third-season episode of the TV series Whitechapel where a psychopath is driven insane by watching a previously-unknown last copy of London After Midnight. After watching it for one last time, he hands it over to one of the police and asks him to protect it.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Vogel, Michelle (2010). Olive Borden: The Life and Films of Hollywood's "Joy Girl". McFarland. p. 146. ISBN 0-786-44795-8. 
  2. ^ Cline, John; Weiner. Robert G., ed. (2010). From the Arthouse to the Grindhouse: Highbrow and Lowbrow Transgression in Cinema's First Century. Scarecrow Press. p. 39. ISBN 0-810-87655-8. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]