It may not be a surprise that we here at JapanCinema enjoy Asian movies and what’s more intriguing than a movie you really want to see? Unfortunately all the films on this list, we will stay in anticipation probably forever. There are plenty of lost films from the history of entertainment and some of these we know very little about. Film preservation was not a serious undertaking in the beginning and due to the flammable nature of the film reels many movies are probably burned. Recently private collectors have come forward with films thought to be lost and these are the top ten films we hope someone comes forward with.
The Vengeful Spirit of Eros (1930)
Apparently this was an interesting lover’s comedy starring Tatsuo Saito and Satoko Date, as a couple who falls for each other and commit “suicide”. Regrettably he has survived the fall the girlfriend apparently never planned on killing herself, and has been getting with many of the towns guys. This is kind of a progressive film with the elements of female empowerment, since that in Japan of this time period, the only way a girl could dump her guy was by having him killed. The boyfriend plans revenge on his two timing girl. The rest of the plot is lost even director Yasujirō Ozu later would go on to not remember making it or even what happened in it.
Lost Luck / Ashi Ni sawatta koun (1930)
Again, director Yasujirō Ozu in interviews later in life, couldn’t remember what this one was about and after a little research I can say that this may have been the first Black comedy movie focusing on misery and irony. Salary man Furugawa (Saito) finds a bundle of 4000 Yen wrapped in newspaper and returns it to the owner, who rewards him with 500 Yen. But Furugawa’s pals and coworkers take all but 180 Yen. Furugawa’s boss offers him everything he’d need to start a chicken farm for only 100 yen. Unfortunately, Furugawa returns home to find that his wife spent the 180Y on fabric. The next morning, Furugawa happens upon another bundle wrapped in newspaper. This time, it’s a ball of rice. A weird one but still sounds pretty interesting.
Arirang (1926 film)
This depressing Korean film was hailed a masterpiece in its time for its uncomfortable and brutal depiction of life in Japanese Korea. A student, Ch’oe Yeongjin, who has become mentally ill after being imprisoned and tortured by the Japanese for his involvement in protest against the Japanese colonial rule. He returns to live with his father and sister, Yeongheui, in their small village home. While the villagers are preoccupied with a harvest festival, O Kiho, a sympathizer for the Japanese police, attempts to rape Yeongheui. A family friend fights with Kiho, striking and killing him. The film ends with the Japanese police taking Yeongjin over Arirang hill to return to prison for the murder. This film has actually been remade a few times but the bleak original has been lost.
Sword of Penitence (1927)
Yasujiro Ozu really sucked at keeping copies of his movies safe, but to be fair though, he reportedly only saw the movie in its completed form once and didn’t care too much for it. The plot involved a convict being released from prison and trying to get his life back on track while avoiding sliding back into crime. Eventually though a stolen necklace ends up in his possession and all sorts of people come out the wood work to get it back. This one seems very interesting; nobody seems to agree if it was a darker movie or a comedy hopefully someday the debate will be ended.
Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki (1917)
The first professional Japanese animation film ever made and can you believe this one is lost? I mean the history this one represents is pretty stunning. Almost nothing is known about it, the animation styles have been speculated about but not even pictures still exist. I’m sure it couldn’t have been that long but it must have been the inspiration for so many young artists who would have gone on to create the large industry animation would become in Japan.
Chikara to Onna no Yo no Naka (1933)
Not only was the first Japanese anime lost, Chikara to Onna no Yo no Naka was the first Japanese anime to have any voice acting and, of course, it’s lost too. The plot involved a henpecked husband having an affair and eventually being caught by his huge wife. By including popular regular actors as the voices it became a pretty big hit. Unfortunately, only a single still exists today.
Wasei Kingu Kongu (1933)
A Japanese King Kong that predated Godzilla came out the same year as the original King Kong. A silent short movie would be an absolute joy for me to see. I love King Kong and it blows my mind there is a Japanese rip-off. A promotional picture still exists but it is suspected that this movie was lost during the bombings in World War II.
The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple (1928-1931)
There is so much of note about this one. Well for one, it was well over 27 hours long, and it was a silent film serial. Adapted from the novel, The Tale of the Extraordinary Swordsman, it focuses on the rescue of a commander who is captive in a temple full of traps. It’s the longest movie I have ever heard of despite that fact no copies have survived. Plenty of pictures exist and as far as I can tell this is the most ambitious film probably ever made. I really want to see it but if no copies have come forward for 84 years, I don’t think we’ll ever get to see this. Can you even imagine how long the film stock must have been?
King Kong Appears in Edo (1938)
Shocked? Yeah, that was my reaction to. There are two lost Japanese King Kong films. Two! This one hasn’t been seen since its original theatrical run 74 years ago. Not much is known about this one a poster still exists and from that we can see how bizarre this Kong looked . Can I just say I love the original King Kong and these movies have a lot to live up too and if not for the amazing number one choice these movies would have stolen the top spot.
Batman Fights Dracula (1967)
Go ahead, do yourself a favor…read the title again. Batman Fights Dracula has got to be the most mind-blowingly awful, amazing batman film we will never see. You know what, I’ll go further than that! It has to be the most amazing superhero film ever. Keep your Dark Knight Rises…I want this one! Doesn’t it crush your Batman loving soul you’ll never see this. Only a poster exists I couldn’t even find a plot description. I guess the Filipino production knew how awesome it was and wanted to keep it to themselves. For its amazing premise alone, it ranks in as our number one lost Asian film.