Universal Pictures announced that it will continue its historic silent film initiative with an additional 10 titles to be restored and screened for cinema fans in the coming years. This builds on the 2015 announcement that 15 classic titles would be restored, honoring the Studio’s rich film history and celebrating over one hundred years of filmmaking. Significant titles such as Outside the Law, Oh, Doctor!, The Last Warning and Sensation Seekershave been included in this initiative.
“These early pioneers crafted the foundation of filmmaking and we are proud that our restoration efforts enable their work to be shared with today’s audiences,” said Michael Daruty, Senior Vice President, Global Media Operations at NBCUniversal. “We take the stewardship of this cultural legacy very seriously, and feel it is not only our responsibility but also our privilege to preserve these films for future generations.”
The announcement was made at Opening Night of the 2018 San Francisco Silent Film Festival, where Universal Pictures premiered the restored 1928 silent film The Man Who Laughs. Directed by Paul Leni (The Cat and the Canary) and starring Conrad Veidt and Mary Philbin, The Man Who Laughs is a romantic drama adapted from Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name.
The Man Who Laughs was filmed at Universal City in 1927 and premiered in 1928. The production spent months on the set construction of the early 18th century English houses of Parliament. In the film, King James II orders that his rival’s son’s face be permanently disfigured into a grotesque smile. The son, Gwynplaine (Conrad Veidt), now an adult, becomes a well-known circus clown and falls in love with an orphaned blind girl, Dea (Mary Philbin). Upon learning of his title and stake in his family’s estate, he must choose whether to marry a duchess to secure his fortune or give it up to follow his love for Dea.
The primary source element for this restoration was a 35mm composite fine grain from the Universal Studios Vault, created in 1954 from the nitrate original camera negative. NBCUniversal’s restoration team was able to stabilize and deflicker the film as well as repair scratches, warps, and dirt. The 4K digital restoration was completed by NBCUniversal StudioPost.
The silent film initiative is part of the Universal Pictures film restoration program first announced in 2012. Since then, 78 titles have been restored. Fully restored films include All Quiet on the Western Front, The Birds, Buck Privates, Dracula (1931), Dracula Spanish (1931), Frankenstein, Jaws, Schindler’s List, Out of Africa, Pillow Talk, Bride of Frankenstein, The Sting, To Kill a Mockingbird, Touch of Evil, Double Indemnity, Holiday Inn, Spartacus, King of Jazz, One-Eyed Jacks, and Cleopatra.