in about 100 words or less
US 65m, B&W, Silent
Director: Tod Browning; Cast: Lon Chaney, Marceline Day, Conrad Nagel, Henry B. Walthall, Polly Moran, Claude King
As one of the most sought after lost films from the silent era, London After Midnight is a crime drama based on Tod Browning’s short story entitled “The Hypnotist” about a detective who attempts to identify a killer through hypnosis. Though the only surviving print was entirely lost to flames in 1967, a 45 minute reconstruction of the film using production stills and the original script provides some insight into what it must have been like. A review of the original film in Moving Picture World, Vol.89, No.7, noted that there are moments “when one feels that the essentials that make for mystery and creepiness have been carried a bit further than we have hitherto noted” (December 1927:25) suggesting that Browning had pushed the limits of the genre. Notable for Chaney’s incredibly strange sharp-toothed “man in the beaver hat” character that purportedly inspired a real-life murder in Hyde Park in 1928, the film continues to be influential as the basis for a 2012 episode of the television series Whitechapel, about an escapee from a psychiatric unit who was driven insane by a viewing of this film, and most recently, Chaney’s character served as inspiration for The Babadook (2014). Though the film’s reputation has probably eclipsed the actual production, it is a testament to the artistry of Chaney that he continues to fuel the imagination of film fans with a 90-year-old character (Klaus Ming March 2017).