Rare Alfred Hitchcock film footage uncovered

Still taken from Hitchcock's The White Shadow The film archive described the movie as "a wild, atmospheric melodrama"

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Footage from Alfred Hitchcock's first film has been uncovered in New Zealand.

The British director was 24 when he made the 1923 silent film, The White Shadow.

The three reels were found among some unidentified American nitrate prints, which were left at the New Zealand Film Archive in 1989.

Hitchcock was the writer, assistant director, editor and production designer on the drama, which starred Clive Brook and Betty Compson.

He went on to make classics including Psycho, The Birds and North by Northwest and died in 1980.

David Sterritt, chairman of the National Society of Film Critics, called the find "one of the most significant developments in memory".

"These first three reels offer a priceless opportunity to study his visual and narrative ideas when they were first taking shape," he added.

The film archive described the movie as "a wild, atmospheric melodrama".

Compson played the role of two twin sisters, one of whom was good and the other was evil.

The family of New Zealand projectionist and film collector Jack Murtagh sent the highly flammable prints to the organisation for safe keeping after his death in 1989.

Murtagh's grandson Tony Osborne said: "From boyhood, my grandfather was an avid collector- be it films, stamps, coins or whatever.

"Some would view him as rather eccentric. He would be quietly amused by all the attention now generated by these important film discoveries."

It is not known where the remaining three reels are and no other copy is thought to exist.

The footage will be preserved at Park Road Post Production in Wellington.

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