London After Midnight (film)

London After Midnight
London After Midnight Poster 1927 MGM.jpg
English language theatrical release poster. A direct copy of this poster was also printed in Spanish.
Directed by Tod Browning
Produced by Tod Browning
Irving Thalberg (uncredited)
Written by Waldemar Young (scenario)
Joseph W. Farnham (titles)
Based on "The Hypnotist"
by Tod Browning
Starring Lon Chaney
Marceline Day
Conrad Nagel
Henry B. Walthall
Polly Moran
Claude King
Cinematography Merritt B. Gerstad
Edited by Harry Reynolds
Irving Thalberg (uncredited)
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • December 3, 1927 (1927-12-03) (United States)
Running time
65 mins [1]
Country United States
Language Silent
English intertitles
Budget $151,666.14 [2]
Box office $1,004,000 [3]

London After Midnight, also known as The Hypnotist, is a 1927 American silent mystery film with horror overtones directed by Tod Browning and starring Lon Chaney, Marceline Day, Conrad Nagel, Henry B. Walthall and Polly Moran. The film was distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and was based on the short story "The Hypnotist" by Tod Browning, who also directed the film.

The last copy of the film known to exist was destroyed in the 1967 MGM vault fire, [4] [5] making London After Midnight one of the most famous and eagerly sought after of all lost films. In 2002, Turner Classic Movies aired a reconstructed version, [6] produced by Rick Schmidlin, who used the original script and film stills to create this version. [7]

In 2014, the only contemporary poster known to exist for the film was sold in Dallas, Texas to an anonymous bidder for $478,000, making it the most valuable movie poster ever sold at public auction [8] (the 1932 film The Mummy had held the previous record for a poster's sale at public auction, selling for more than $453,000 in 1997). [9]


In a cultured and peaceful home on the outskirts of London, [10] the head of the household, Roger Balfour, is found dead from what initially appears to be a self-inflicted bullet wound, despite the insistence of Balfour's friend and neighbor, Sir James Hamlin, that his friend would never have taken his own life. Nonetheless, Balfour's death is officially declared a suicide by an Inspector Edward C. Burke of Scotland Yard. [10] [11] [12]

Some five years later, with the case still unresolved, a sinister-looking man dressed in black with pointed teeth arrives at the household accompanied by a cadaverous-looking woman in a long gown; the arrival of these two individuals prompts Sir James Hamlin, the friend and neighbor of the late Roger Balfour, to call Scotland Yard. This in turn prompts Inspector Burke to travel to the household, where he discovers that three individuals now present in the household had been the only three who had been present five years previously when Roger Balfour had died. Initially, Burke remains skeptical that any of these three individuals (Balfour's daughter, his butler, and Arthur Hibbs, [13] the nephew of the neighbor who had placed the call to Scotland Yard) may have been involved in his murder, until Balfour's body disappears from its tomb and an individual looking distinctly like him is seen around the household. This, in addition to other eerie acts such as instances of singular gunshots being heard in Roger Balfour's former bedroom occurring in the household while Burke is there and the sinister-looking man in black repeatedly terrifying those within the household, prompts him to determine to identify Balfour's killer by reproducing the former crime scene and using hypnosis to induce the culprit into re-enacting the murder. [11] [12] [14] [14] [14] [14]