Book Review – In Search of Lost Films by Phil Hall

In Search of Lost Films
By Phil Hall
Publisher: BearManor Media
Release Date: August 8, 2016


I’ve been a big movie buff for most of my life. One of my earliest memories involves watching Disney’s THE JUNGLE BOOK in the theater, waaaaay back in the day. Furthermore, MANY of my memories from later in my youth pertain to movies in some form or fashion. Some might view this as sad, as a childhood wasted inside a darkened theater; but some would be wrong. I spent PLENTY of time outside, however I rarely turned down the opportunity to go see a movie.

This passion for celluloid has followed me well into my adult life, and as a result, I’ve turned into a collector of films. I particularly enjoy looking for rare and out-of-print titles, and I have often had success in locating several on my list. But even so, there are several “Holy Grails” of the film world, treasures so rare they are almost priceless. Further still are those titles deemed lost to the ages, films spoken of only in past tense.

IN SEARCH OF LOST FILMS takes a candid look at many of these legendary films, and author Phil Hall gives an accounting for the history and myths behind them. The result is a captivating read that every fan of the cinema should enjoy.

If you are not familiar with IN SEARCH OF LOST FILMS, here is the book’s synopsis courtesy of BearManor Media:

It is one of the most astonishing facts of cinema history: an extraordinary number of important films are believed to be lost forever. Spanning from the early days of the silent movies to as late as the 1970s and touching all corners of the global film experience, groundbreaking works of significant historical and artistic importance are gone. Cinema icons including Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Oscar Micheaux and Vincente Minnelli are among those impacted by this tragedy, and pioneering technological achievements in color cinematography, sound film technology, animation and widescreen projection are among the lost treasures. How could this happen? And is it possible to recover these missing gems? In this book, noted film critic and journalist Phil Hall details circumstances that resulted in these productions being erased from view. For anyone with a passion for the big screen, In Search of Lost Films provides an unforgettable consideration of a cultural tragedy.

IN SEARCH OF LOST FILMS is not just a nonfiction book about movies that have disappeared. It is a glimpse into a critical piece of American history. Reading this book is the equivalent of opening a time capsule; there’s a treasure trove of legacy behind the items in it.

The book is written well, in a straight-forward and easy-to-read manner. Hall presents his findings in regard to each title, but he does not hesitate to include the history of the times around each movie. This gives the reader a deeper feeling of sentiment for each, and it creates a bond that ties the reader to them as well.

The book’s chapters break down the lost films into time periods. Starting off with the “silent” years, the book progresses through the age of talkies and into the modern era of filmmaking. There’s also a section for lost segments of film (missing pieces of existing films); I found this one very enlightening, as I had no idea what had been lacking in certain titles.

In an age of abundant information resources (i.e. the Internet), I’m glad to see even more mysteries reaching resolution. As sad as it is to read about the fate of some of these mythical films, I am glad they can finally be put to rest, at least. IN SEARCH OF LOST FILMS is an excellent book, and I highly recommend it.


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