Mortal Remains is Atticus's second and most notorious production. One of the most elusive lost films since the birth of the moving picture, it has never been screened in its entirety; a partial screening at a Baltimore theater in June 1972 marked its only exposure to a public audience.
The film was based upon a 1926 novel by Vernon Blake (itself entitled Mortal Remains). Probably the best-known of Blake's works - those published under his own name, at any rate - the novel details the gruesome fate of a group of wealthy young socialites who unwittingly defile the temple of an evil sect known as the Qa'Desh.
Atticus, enamored of Blake's writings and the 1920s aesthetic, convinced producer Damien Long to fund an ambitious adaptation of the novel, utilizing period costuming and a vintage automobile rented from a local collector. According to surviving crew members, much of the film was shot at Atticus's Maryland home, a large house replete with antique furnishings. Some cast members went missing both during and after the film's production, which caused other members of the cast and crew to become uneasy.
It was during this period that certain rumors began to surface, to the effect that Atticus was plundering local graveyards for "props," though he was never definitively linked with any such activities. One crew member related a more plausible source for this particular myth: While a sequence set in a morgue was being filmed at a Baltimore mortuary (one with suitably antiquated porcelain fixtures), Atticus played a gruesome prank on his crew by opening a body bag and tampering with the cadaver within. The crew member indicates that this was the origin of what would eventually evolve into the local legend of "the director who used dead bodies in his movies."
In spite of a turbulent shoot, production was wrapped and the film edited over the next several months in anticipation of a June 1972 release. Atticus and Long scheduled a midnight premiere at the Patterson Theater in Baltimore; a 1972 newspaper clipping indicates that the film's theatrical run was to commence in earnest the following week at the Omicron, Long's theater in Manhattan.
As the film screened in Baltimore, the audience grew increasingly vocal; some patrons walked out as the graphic murder sequences became too much to bear. Others who remained in their seats recall that the atmosphere in the theater became charged with tension as the scenes of ritual murder became more and more intense. A group of men (described variously as "bikers" or "religious nuts") began brawling; others actually stormed the booth and, overpowering the projectionist, succeeded in tearing the film reel from the platter and dragging it into the street, where it was set alight.
According to local news reports the altercation escalated into a near-riot, with dozens of men and women struggling to either leave the building or locate and persecute those responsible for the film's content. Atticus apparently fled the theater before anyone could identify him, and he was not seen again in public for nearly a year.
The answer print of Mortal Remains was almost completely destroyed during the incident, and it is generally believed that no other prints exist. The original Atticus residence in Loch Raven burned to the ground in 1976, so it must be assumed that the original negative and any remaining elements were also destroyed at that time.
Film clips purported to be fragments of the original Patterson print have surfaced from time to time (the best-known clip appears to depict the graphic mutilation of a bound victim by a masked figure), but it is not known if these snippets are authentic or where they originated.
Atticus subsequently went into seclusion and was officially pronounced dead in Septenber 1973 following his apparent suicide. As no intact print of Mortal Remains has ever been located, the film was never screened again, nor has it ever been released in any other format. Thus it remains not only lost, but forgotten as well...though its shadow looms large, its legacy having undoubtedly influenced many of the horror films of the 1970s and '80s.