Before everything ever produced could be uploaded to the eternal collective memory bank that is the Internet, film footage was stored on reels of extremely flammable material that tended to ignite like scrolls of black magic with alarming regularity.
Consequently, thousands of classics have been lost to your average human foul-ups and jackassery. But recently, copies of a handful of famous old movies once thought lost or destroyed have been found, with results ranging from "neat" to "unfortunate."
#4. Lost Footage from Return of the Jedi
Never-before-seen footage from Return of the Jedi resurfaced on an old LaserDisc after lying undiscovered for 30 years. For those of you too young to remember, LaserDiscs were essentially the predecessor to DVDs, only they were roughly the size of a truck tire for no apparent reason. Lucasfilm used to store and edit all of their footage on them, which probably means there are stacks of undiscovered Howard the Duck LaserDiscs lying in a cursed warehouse somewhere.
"Boy, this technology will never fail!" -Lucasfilm
The Return of the Jedi footage is being slowly meted out to the Internet via a Facebook page that is updated daily with riveting video clips, such as R2-D2 staring at the camera for a minute, both Luke and Yoda trying their best not to act like puppets, and Yoda asking for his lines.
And either the world's largest clapboard or the world's tiniest diversity hire.
It's just a bunch of outtakes, but it's incredible to think that any footage of the production of the original Star Wars trilogy could've spent the past three decades in relative anonymity. Unfortunately, we'll inevitably see this footage doled out over the next four decades in dribs and drabs on various neo-neo-neo-BluRay rereleases of the original trilogy.
#3. Orson Welles' First Long-Form Movie
Before Citizen Kane ever came to fruition, Orson Welles' first attempt at a movie for a paying audience was a 40-minute film hilariously titled Too Much Johnson.
"Will you just look at all this Johnson!"
The film was scheduled to be screened before a play of the same name being performed by his Mercury Theater group when it ran on Broadway in 1938. The play got a terrible reception during a preview performance and never actually made it to Broadway, so Welles decided he'd had Too Much Johnson and never bothered to finish editing the footage, which was later destroyed when his Spanish villa burned down in the 1960s. This is a string of events that seems to suggest that the world was simply not ready for Too Much Johnson.
"Speak for yourself."
However, last August, a copy of the film was found in an Italian warehouse and fully restored and transferred to less volatile storage material, possibly a Lucasfilm LaserDisc. Finally, after a nearly 80-year journey, select audiences were delighted earlier this month by Too Much Johnson. The film is scheduled to be available on the Internet at some point in the near future. (After all, there's nearly not enough Johnson on the World Wide Web.)
#2. Nine Old Doctor Who Episodes
Despite what the sea of Tumblr GIFs may suggest, Doctor Who has been going on for the last 50 years, starting back in the era before humans invented color. In the '60s and '70s, the BBC started destroying the original transmission tapes of the cult classic's earliest episodes, because apparently they thought they were all haunted or something. As a result, several of the original episodes are completely lost.
While others were recycled as avant-garde vacuum cleaner ads overseas.
However, earlier this month, nine of the missing episodes were found sitting on a dusty shelf in the storeroom of a Nigerian TV station, because where else would they be? The BBC has now uploaded the nine episodes on iTunes (the trailer can be viewed here) so generations of new Doctor Who fans can enjoy the subtle brilliance of these sci-fi classics.
Pictured: subtle brilliance.
#1. Jerry Lewis' Holocaust Movie
Notorious undead comedian Jerry Lewis once made a movie about the Holocaust called The Day the Clown Cried, which ended with Lewis, as the titular clown, walking into a gas chamber with a group of children, juggling stale bread in a desperate attempt to make them laugh and distract them from their impending demise. This is another way of saying that Jerry Lewis vowed to never let anyone see the finished film. And if a movie is so bad that Jerry Lewis deems it unfit for human consumption, you pretty much need to throw that thing into a fucking volcano.
"Not big enough."
Recently, however, scraps of footage from The Day the Clown Cried were unearthed by a Flemish TV documentary and subsequently uploaded on YouTube, because the Belgian Dutch apparently couldn't resist opening this Pandora's box of horribly misguided melodrama:
Lewis presumably still makes this same face when people ask him about this movie.
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