Exciting news for silent comedy fans, movie buffs, and people who generally like things that are awesome: film historian Fernando Pena has discovered an alternate version of the classic Buster Keaton short The Blacksmith, featuring numerous never-before-seen gags and a new ending. The film, buried in a large purchase of European prints from eBay, is the kind of discovery that makes movie lovers’ hearts dance; there are so many great old films either lost entirely or no longer in their original form that these kind of finds in archives, collections, and odd spots make the impossible (the original cuts of Greed or The Magnificent Ambersons, say) seem possible. Here’s a few more exciting moments of cinematic archaeology.
The Passion of Joan of Arc
Carl Theodor Dreyer’s masterpiece, one of the greatest of all silent films, was subjected to cuts by the Catholic church and government censors before it could be released in 1928, over Dreyer’s strenuous objections. When his original negative was destroyed in a studio fire, the director had to patch together a new version using alternate takes, and over the years that followed, even that version was subjected to alterations and battery. But in 1981, a nearly pristine copy of the film was discovered in, of all places, a janitor’s closet at the Dikemark Sykhaus mental institution in Oslo, Norway. The film cans were sent to the Norwegian Film Institute, but no one there bothered to examine them for three years. It was only then that they realized they had a copy of Dreyer’s original cut, before the state-imposed edits. No one knows how the hell it ended up in an Oslo mental institution, but whatever the reason, the print discovered there rescued the filmmaker’s original vision.