For a silent film accompanist, Halloween is the most wonderful time of the year.
If nothing else, silent film is other-worldly enough to be a general draw during this macabre part of the calendar. And so the screenings come, one by one...
Usually, just for sanity's sake, I try to pick one of the great favorites each year and focus on it. One year, 'Nosferatu' (1922) another 'Phantom of the Opera' (1925), and so on.
But this cycle that system kinda broke down for various reasons. And so now I'm doing music for a lot of different films one after another. It's scary on a whole new level.
First up is the original silent 'Nosferatu' (1922), being shown on Friday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at Red River Theatres in Concord, N.H.
Alas, we're in the smaller "screening" room, so it might just happen that we sell out.
If that happens, I'll arrange for a repeat as soon as feasible. But if you really really hope to see it this Friday night, I suggest getting tickets beforehand online at www.redrivertheatres.org.
After 'Nosferatu,' it's 'Phantom of the Opera' (1925) on Saturday, Oct. 25 at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine, and then a Lon Chaney double feature on Sunday, Oct. 26 at the Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre.
And more after that, but one weekend at a time.
With 'Nosferatu,' I like to remind attendees that vampires were not a cliché with early cinema audiences.
Original audiences had never seen anything like the vampire played by Max Schreck, and it must have been a genuinely unsettling experience.
How terrifying can a vampire be when the figure has been turned into a cartoon breakfast cereal pitchman? (Actually, very much so, if you read the ingredients.)
Today, the vampire legend has been largely detoothed, so to speak, by overexposure, familiarity and commercialism. Heck, kids today learn numbers on Sesame Street from "The Count," a cuddly muppet.
Fortunately, director F.W. Murnau's visual style, and the other-worldly quality of silent film itself, is more than enough to bring audiences back into the spirit of the original 'Nosferatu.'
To see for yourself, I invite you to join us. For more specifics about 'Nosferatu' on Friday, Oct. 24 at Red River Theatres, check out the press release below.
And remember: in silent film, no one can hear you scream!
And P.S.: For yet more provocative thoughts on old vampire films, check out recent posts at www.nitratediva.wordpress.com. Some great stuff about Tod Browning's early talkie 'Dracula' (1931) as well as the lesser-known Spanish language version of the 1931 Universal classic, which Red River will screen on Friday, Oct. 31.
SATURDAY, OCT. 4, 2014 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • email@example.com
'Nosferatu' coming to Red River Theatres on Friday, Oct. 24
Pioneer classic horror movie to be shown on the big screen with live music
CONCORD, N.H.—Get into the Halloween spirit with a classic silent horror film!
'Nosferatu' (1922), the first screen adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel 'Dracula,' will be screened with live music on Friday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at Red River Theatres, 11 South Main St., Concord, N.H.
The film will include live music performed by New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis. Admission is $10 per person.
'Nosferatu' (1922), directed by German filmmaker F.W. Murnau, remains a landmark work of the cinematic horror genre. It was among the first movies to use visual design to contribute to an overall sense of terror. To modern viewers, the passage of time has made this unusual film seem even more strange and otherworldly.
It's an atmosphere that silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis will try to enhance in improvising live music on the spot for the screenings.
"The original 'Nosferatu' is a film that seems to get creepier as more time goes by," said Rapsis, a resident of Bedford, N.H. who ranks as one of the nation's leading silent film accompanists. "It's a great way to celebrate Halloween and the power of silent film to transport audiences to strange and unusual places."
In 'Nosferatu,' German actor Max Schreck portrays the title character, a mysterious count from Transylvania who travels to the German city of Bremen to take up residence. A rise in deaths from the plague is attributed to the count's arrival. Only when a young woman reads "The Book of Vampires" does it become clear how to rid the town of this frightening menace.
Director F.W. Murnau told the story with strange camera angles, weird lighting, and special effects that include sequences deliberately speeded up.
Although 'Nosferatu' is suitable for all family members, the overall program may be too much for very young children to enjoy.
Modern critics say the original 'Nosferatu' still packs a powerful cinematic punch.
“Early film version of Dracula is brilliantly eerie, full of imaginative touches that none of the later films quite recaptured,” Leonard Maltin wrote recently. Critic Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader called 'Nosferatu' "...a masterpiece of the German silent cinema and easily the most effective version of Dracula on record.”
Despite the status of 'Nosferatu' as a landmark of early cinema, it was almost lost forever.
The film, shot in 1921 and released in 1922, was an unauthorized adaptation of Stoker's novel, with names and other details changed because the studio could not obtain rights to the novel.
For instance, "vampire" became "Nosferatu" and "Count Dracula" became "Count Orlok." After the film was released, Stoker's widow filed a copyright infringement lawsuit and won; all known prints and negatives were destroyed under the terms of settlement.
However, intact copies of the the film would surface later, allowing 'Nosferatu' to be restored and screened today as audiences originally saw it. The image of actor Max Schreck as the vampire has become so well known that it showed up in a recent episode of 'Sponge Bob Squarepants.'
Red River Theatres, an independent cinema, is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to screening a diverse program of first-run independent films, cult favorites, classics, local and regional film projects, and foreign films.
The member-supported theater’s mission is to present film and the discussion of film as a way to entertain, broaden horizons and deepen appreciation of life for New Hampshire audiences of all ages.
Upcoming events in Red River's silent film programming include:
• Friday, Nov. 28 at 7 p.m.: 'Charlie Chaplin Comedy Night.' Spend part of Thanksgiving weekend with the Little Tramp on the 100th anniversary of his first screen appearances. The whole family will enjoy restored prints of some of Chaplin's most popular comedies shown the way they were intended: on the big screen, with live music, and an audience.
‘Nosferatu’ will be shown on Friday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. in the Jaclyn Simchik Screening Room at Red River Theatres, 11 South Main St., Concord, N.H. Admission is $10 per person; for more info, call (603) 224-4600 or visit www.redrivertheatres.org. For more information about the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.