London: The only known surviving copy of Charlie Chaplin-starrer `Zepped`, a film made to dispel the fear due to the Zeppelin bombings over England and France during the First World War, will hit the auction block here later this month.
The copy is the highlight of Bonhams Entertainment Memorabilia auction on June 29.
In 2009, Morace Park bought a battered cinema reel tin from an online auction site. Once he eventually opened the tin it revealed a roll of film entitled `Charlie Chaplin in Zepped`. Unable to find any record or mention of the film during his subsequent research, Park began a worldwide investigation to find out if he had discovered the last copy of a forgotten Chaplin film.
"At first I had no idea what I had. However, it soon became clear that `Zepped` is a very special film. I visited film experts in Europe and the USA and lost count of the superlatives that they came out with, but one comment was common - none of them had ever seen this type of film before," says Park.
On extremely fragile 35mm nitrate film and almost 7 minutes long, the movie features some of the earliest known animation in film history, the auction house said.
The reel shows scenes of a Zeppelin raid over London whilst Chaplin acts in his trademark comic style.
During his research Park found a record of it having been classified by the British Board of Film Classification in 1917 and stumbled upon an advertisement for a trade viewing of the film at Victoria Street, Manchester in the publication Manchester Film Renter - the advertisement is the last known reference to the film.
A footnote in the records show that the film was given an export license, and the beginning of the film has censorship frames indicating that it was to be sent on a morale-boosting mission to troops in Egypt.
"The fact that this fragile and flammable nitrate film has survived from 1916, features the most iconic filmstar of the period and has never previously been seen by the wider public, is incredible and it will no doubt become a significant contribution to the history of early film," says Stephanie Connell, head of Entertainment Memorabilia at Bonhams.