Ingagi (found pre-code found-footage film; 1930)
Date found: 2017
Found by: The Library of Congress
Ingagi is a Pre-Code 1930 found-footage exploitation film directed by William S. Campbell, with a cast consisting largely of local Los Angeles performers. The film depicts a research party's encounter with a tribe in the Congo region whose members are implied to hold bestiality rites with giant gorillas.
Production and Release
In addition to being perhaps the first entry in the found-footage genre, the film is also famous as the inspiration for King Kong. It is notorious for the controversy surrounding its release. Initially marketed as an ethnographic documentary, Ingagi was soon exposed as a fabrication when an audience member recognized one of the tribesmen as being an actor. This led the MPAA, then known as the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association, to issue a cease-and-desist order against the film's distributors, who in turn sued the MPPDA for causing them to lose profits. A few months later, a private detective working for the MPPDA managed to track down stunt performer Charles Gemora, who portrayed the lead gorilla and convinced him to sign an affidavit acknowledging his participation in the film. It was also revealed that most of the footage was not shot on location in Africa but rather at the Los Angeles Zoo, while several other scenes had been stolen from an earlier film, prompting yet another lawsuit.
In addition, the American Society of Mammalogists questioned the credentials of the film's lead explorer, Sir Hubert Winstead, leading to an investigation by the Better Business Bureau revealed that no such individual actually existed. The ASM also revealed a species of venomous reptile portrayed in the film, the Tortadillo to be little more than a leopard tortoise with various prosthetics attached. In the end, the overwhelming amount of evidence against Ingagi convinced the Federal Trade Commission to issue a statement prohibiting any further distribution unless the filmmakers acknowledged their product as being a work of fiction. This evidently never happened, and the film ultimately fell into obscurity.
Due to the facts that the film never had a re-release, wasn't shown on Television, or had a home video release, the film was assumed to be totally lost. In 2016, however, the Library of Congress confirmed the rumors that they had the film, and in fact, had three nitrate prints of Ingagi, and had been transferred to modern film stock. At this time, there are no plans to restore the film, as the current Head of Film at the Library is focusing on Dramas and Westerns, and is "Not a big horror fan". However, during the original release, the film had two versions, one using sound-on-film and the other using Vitaphone discs, for theaters who have not upgraded to sound-on-film yet. The Vitaphone discs were found by a fan and were used to make a reconstruction, now on YouTube.