Alfred Hitchcock's second film, a British-German co-production called The Mountain Eagle, was released in 1927, but has been considered lost for the best part of 90 years.

The film stock's highly flammable nitrate base may have led to its destruction, according to one theory. However, Hitchcock fans are hoping that the picture - ranked at the top of the British Film Institute's (BFI) "most wanted of the most wanted films" - will still be found, according to The Guardian.

The discovery of 24 still photographs in the archive of one of Hitchcock's closest friends last year sparked feverish speculation that the film itself might finally re-surface. The shots were auctioned in Los Angeles earlier this month for $6,000.

Johannes Köck, head of the Tyrolean film commission, CineTirol, has been searching for the film since centenary celebrations of Hitchcock's birth in 1999. That year he found evidence that the legendary director had made the film in Obergurgl in Austria, where he arrived in 1925. Hitchcock travelled to the remote, mountainous location from Munich after seeing a postcard there which depicted its romantic landscape.

Called Fear o' God in America and Der Bergadler in German-speaking countries, The Mountain Eagle did not do particularly well at the box office. Its plot centred on a crafty, malicious father, a son and a teacher. Both the father and son fall in love with the teacher, who takes to the mountains following the father's advances. A recluse subsequently falls in love with the teacher and marries her. The father is accidentally shot at the climax of the movie.

Hitchcock was dissatisfied with the film, telling the French director François Truffaut that it was "awful".

Some interested parties believe the film might be in New Zealand, which in the 1920s was typically the last destination in the worldwide distribution chain.