“Within the genre of exploitation, there weren’t a lot of women, I mean especially not a lot of women who were in witness protection.”
The above quote, delivered by Pajiba’s managing editor Kristy Puchko, is but one of many hints that Lost & Found: The True Hollywood Story of Silver Cinema Pictures International isn’t a true story at all. It’s a mockumentary about a fictional D-grade movie production company with a remarkably colorful history. It’s a movie made for a very limited audience of people who would read that prior sentence and think, “That sounds fun.”
Lost & Found, which is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime, tries its best to fool you, though. The now-familiar conventions of the Hollywood history documentary are all upheld. Film critics and noted authors of books about exploitation cinema appear as talking heads and share their fond memories of seeing old Silver Screen Cinema Pictures on New York’s famed, pre-Giuliani 42nd Street. A helpful narrator links together old archival interview clips and still photos with a running explanation that Silver Cinema was the worst of the worst in its day. Its founder, we’re told, essentially shadowed Roger Corman and thought “I can do that, too, but even cheaper and faster.” Then two decades later, Silver Cinema’s considerable inventory went up in flames in a clear case of arson fraud and the movies have been lost to history ever since.
Lost & Found purports to have discovered the trailers for 14 old Silver Cinema movies in the storage shed of the company’s deceased editor. Thus, the bulk of the doc’s running time is devoted to showing the trailers and cutting to the talking head critics and archival interviews to provide context.
Except, of course, it’s all fake.
You kind of want it all to be true. Or at least I did. Ever since the Camp Crystal Lake and Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy documentaries came out at the start of the decade, I have fallen in love with these ongoing stories of, as Maitland McDonagh once put it, “filmmaking on the fringe.” Nowadays thanks to advances in technology and the mere existence of YouTube there are more means to make a movie and avenues to have your movie seen (which also makes it even harder to stick out). However, back when resources were more far more limited and the corporate takeover of Hollywood hadn’t yet taken full effect there were the last of American cinema’s shameless hucksters just trying to make a buck on the kinds of movies which absolutely weren’t supposed to last the test of time.
But we’re in the golden age of movie cultism now. Specialty Blu-Ray distributors regularly dole out obscure old movies with remastered video and sometimes feature-length making-of special features. Bad movies that resulted from trainwreck productions now get their own documentaries (Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, Doomed: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four) as do some movies that never even got made (The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened?). And long-dead production companies responsible for some of the worst movies of all time get hilarious docs featuring candid, you-won’t-believe-the-shit-that-went-down-there interviews with some of the actors and filmmakers (Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films).
So, in this environment it’s almost plausible that Lost & Found would indeed be a true story. However, there are plenty of clues to tip you off even before the trailers arrive, like how increasingly outrageous the backstories are or how the critics seem to have all been interviewed in front of the same exact bookshelf just from different angles and with different books or DVDs behind them or how all of the old photos of Silver Cinema’s founder look photoshopped.
But once the trailers arrive, running the gamut of exploitation history from beach blanket romps to shameless Hollywood knockoffs to 80s Cold War-influenced action, there’s no mistaking what you’re watching. It’s clearly something made out of extreme passion for the material, but it’s also clearly been shot in DigitalHD and had all kinds of effects thrown in to make the footage old. For the older fake trailers, the effect is often barely more convincing than turning on a cell phone camera’s sepia filter; for the more recent fake trailers, particularly the ones said to have been filmed on video, it’s a little more convincing.
Beyond that, the trailers also serve as a reminder of just how hard it is to convincingly replicate bad acting. When you try and fail, it’s cringe-worthy but not in the way you intended.
There is an art to the fake bad movie trailer that the Grindhouse people perfected and the Lost & Found people are merely imitating. As such, some of the funniest moments come from the talking heads describing (rather than showing) other fake Silver Cinema movies, such as Polterheist, a shameless Poltergeist rip-off about ghosts attempting a bank heist.
But If you are someone who appreciates passion over resources or if you know your Alice Sweet Alice from your Home Sweet Home or if you’ve simply ever been to an Alamo Drafthouse screening before you might find a laugh or two in Lost & Found’s 86-minute ode to fringe filmmaking, exploitation cinema history, and our newfound love of documenting the worst of the worst. If not, yeah, this isn’t for you.