The only copy of 1923 film The White Shadow was discovered in a garden shed in New Zealand alongside hundreds of other films from that period that had been hoarded by former cinema projectionist Jack Murtagh, who died in 1989.
New Zealand Film Archive chief Frank Stark described Murtagh to the AAP as a "magpie", who was supposed to throw the footage away but could not bear to do so. He explained that in the early days of movie-making, prints would be sent to isolated New Zealand once "they were deemed to be at the end of their distribution life".
"No one had an archival impulse in those days," he added. "The assumption was that these were ephemeral... they were of no value to anyone." He then described it as fortunate that Murtagh chose to disobey the rules. Once the cracked film reels were found, The Hobbit director Peter Jackson's studio staff managed to repair them and create a new print.
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The White Shadow reportedly tells the story of two sisters; one angelic and the other rebellious. Hitchcock allegedly wrote the film, designed the sets, edited the footage and was assistant to the director Graham Cutts.
Stark said: "Even blindfolded, [movie buffs] would still perceive an extra quality and dimension to these films. Here are outstanding examples of some genre-bending work in the very earliest days of production-line studio filmmaking."
The film will be shown at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences headquarters in Los Angeles tomorrow (September 22).
Watch Alfred Hitchcock introduce his classic horror movie The Birds below: