Sunday, October 26, 2014

'Cat and the Canary' (1927) on Weds., 10/29
at Rogers Center, North Andover, Mass.

Two of the memorable faces in 'The Cat and the Canary' (1927): Martha Mattox as "Manny Pleasant" and Laura LaPlante as Annabelle West.

No, it's not the talkie version with Bob Hope cracking wise.

But the silent edition of 'Cat and the Canary' (1927), an early haunted house thriller, is filled with other delights.

One of the great strengths of the silent version, I think, is the cast.

"We had faces," remarks Norma Desmond in 'Sunset Boulevard' (1950). And 'Cat and the Canary' is chock full of memorable ones!

No big-name performers that anyone would recognize today, mind you. But the film still works on an audience by virtue of the terrific ensemble cast that German director Paul Leni assembled for his first Hollywood film.

See for yourself when we run 'The Cat and the Canary' on Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. at the Rogers Center for the Arts at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass. Admission is free!

More details in the press release below.

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Actor Tully Marshall as attorney Crosby has a close encounter in 'The Cat and the Canary' (1927)

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

'Cat and Canary' (1927) to play Rogers Center with live music on Wednesday, Oct. 29

Just in time for Halloween: Creepy haunted house silent film thriller to be shown after sundown

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass.—'The Cat and the Canary' (1927), a haunted house thriller from Hollywood’s silent film era, will be screened with live music on Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. at at the Rogers Center for the Arts on the campus of Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass.

Live music for the movie will be provided by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis. Admission is free and the screening is open to the public.

'The Cat and the Canary' stands as the original movie thriller—the first picture to feature the reading of a will in a haunted mansion complete with clutching hands, a masked killer, disappearing bodies, and secret passageways.

Silent film starlet Laura LaPlante leads the cast as a young heiress who must spend the night in the creepy old mansion, which is filled with relatives who all have motives to frighten her out of her wits. Meanwhile, a dangerous escaped lunatic is loose on the grounds. Can she and the others make it through the night?

Created for Universal Pictures by German filmmaker Paul Leni and based on a hit stage play, 'The Cat and the Canary' proved popular enough to inspire several remakes, including one starring Bob Hope. It was also the forbearer of all the great Universal horror classics of the 1930s and '40s.

The Rogers Center screening will use a fully restored print that shows the film as audiences would have originally experienced it. 'The Cat and the Canary' will be accompanied by live music by New Hampshire composer Jeff Rapsis, who specializes in silent film scoring.

Rapsis will improvise the score on the spot during the screening.

"Silent film is all about the audience experience, and this one is a perfect Halloween crowd-pleaser," Rapsis said. "It has something for everyone—spooky scenes, some good comedy, and it's all fine for the whole family."

Critics praise the original 'Cat and the Canary' for its wild visual design and cutting edge cinematography.

Film reviewer Michael Phillips singled out the film for using "a fluidly moving camera and elaborate, expressionist sets and lighting to achieve some of the most memorable shots in silent film, from the amazing tracking shots down the curtain-lined main hallway to the dramatic zooms and pans that accompany the film's shocks."

Leonard Maltin called the original 'Cat and the Canary' a "delightful silent classic, the forerunner of all "old dark house" mysteries."

Following 'The Cat and the Canary,' the 2014-15 silent film series at the Rogers continues with a sci-fi epic and a war adventure.

• Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, 7 p.m.: 'Woman in the Moon' (1929) directed by Fritz Lang. A grand sci-fi adventure epic about the first rocket ship to the moon. The rarely-screened final silent feature from German filmmaker Fritz Lang (director of 'Metropolis'), 'Woman in the Moon' laid the groundwork for all of the great outer space movie tales to come, complete with melodramatic plot and eye-popping visuals. Welcome the year 2015 by pondering a vision of the future as imagined by one of yesterday's great moviemakers.

• Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, 7 p.m.: 'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' (1921) starring Rudolph Valentino. An extended family split up in France and Germany find themselves on opposing sides of the battlefield during World War I. The film that turned then-little-known actor Rudolph Valentino into a superstar and associated him with the image of the Latin Lover. The film also inspired a tango craze and such fashion fads as gaucho pants. A great way to celebrate Valentine's Day!

All films will be screened at the Rogers Center for the Arts, Merrimack College, 315 North Turnpike St., North Andover, Mass.

"If you haven't seen a silent film the way it was intended to be shown, then you're missing a unique experience," Rapsis said. "At their best, silent films still connect with cinema-goers. They retain a tremendous power to cast a spell, engage an audience, tap into elemental emotions, and provoke strong reactions."

'Cat and the Canary' will be shown on Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. at the Rogers Center for the Arts, located on Walsh Way on the campus of Merrimack College, 315 Turnpike St., North Andover, Mass. Admission is free. For more information, call the Rogers box office at (978) 837-5355. For more info on the music, visit

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