The current restoration project began as the result of a number of discoveries by project co-coordinators Brad Evans and Aaron Glass. First, attention was brought to the film’s original silent film intertitles, still held by the Field Museum and the Burke Museum. The original musical score, composed in 1914 by John Braham, was discovered in the archive at the Getty Research Library. Additional reel fragments of an original 35mm nitrate print were found at the UCLA Film & Television Archive; these had been donated sometime in the 1970s by the film collector David Shepard but remained unidentified in the nitrate storage vaults. These additional reels confirm the original length of the film to be six reels, and indicate the nature of the missing scenes from reels four and five. They also contain the original color tinting and toning that so many viewers prior to 1947 had commented upon.

To as great an extent as currently possible, this restoration will give us access to the motion picture as viewers would have seen it in 1914. The original title, intertitles, shot sequences, color process, orchestral score, and publicity material have all been reactivated.

Film Restoration Process

None of the two sources for surviving footage from IN THE LAND OF THE HEAD HUNTERS was even close to being complete.  Only an approximate total of three reels of scenes from the original six reels was represented by the Field Museum footage.  The UCLA material added the better part of another reel of missing footage, primarily from the final reel.  The UCLA footage was copied wetgate to 35mm negative, yielding an image vastly superior in quality to the Field Museum footage (copied "dry" to the lower-gauge 16mm sixty years ago).

Prior to its being copied, few repairs were made to the Field nitrate, which was splicey, fragile, water-damaged, and decomposing.  This resulted in numerous onscreen jumps and misregistrations, some of which were adjusted on-the-fly during printing by the optical printer operator.  Extensive repairs and the benefit of improved printing techniques during the intervening years yielded a cleaner and steadier image from the UCLA nitrate, which also is in pretty much the same poor condition as was the Field’s.  However, even if a perfect condition nitrate print of HEAD HUNTERS had survived the years, evidence suggests it never originally looked all that good, due to ragged editing and poor camerawork that resulted in frequent image pull-down and second framelines.

For this restoration, a few short shots were lengthened, some out-of-frame shots re-framed optically, and when Field and UCLA footage overlapped, intercutting of portions of shots from each was performed to secure as complete a final product as possible.  Even so, many frames were removed to eliminate the worst jumps and splices for a smoother overall presentation. Because many of the intertitles were short or badly degraded, all titles were re-created digitally.  Missing main and end titles were re-created in the manner of other World Film Corporation releases of the time.  Missing intertitles were derived from plot synopses and other sources.  Images from approximately fifty missing shots were obtained from single frames submitted to the Library of Congress for copyright purposes.  A tinting scheme for the entire film was derived from the UCLA nitrate.  Tinting of the screening print was effected through dye-bath immersion.  Toned and combined tinted-and-toned shots were replicated through flash-printing onto color stock.

Even with lengthened titles and frame representations of missing shots, the restoration/reconstruction of IN THE LAND OF THE HEAD HUNTERS remains at only approximately two-thirds of its presumed original length.  The restoration was undertaken by UCLA Film & Television Archive.  Optical work, printing, and tinting was performed by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory; processing and color printing by YCM Laboratories; and titles by Title House Digital.

Jere Guldin, film restorer
UCLA Film & Television Archive