Sunday, July 24, 2016

Summertime double-header: Hitchcock's
'The Ring,' then Fairbanks in 'Thief of Bagdad'

An original poster for Alfred Hitchcock's film 'The Ring' (1927)

They do it in baseball. So why not in silent film?

Today is one of those "two screenings in one day" days. A double-header, just like baseball.

Unlike baseball, today's screenings are in two different stadiums—er, theaters. And this being New England, they're in two different states, too.

This afternoon, I'll be at the Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre for the next installment of our summertime series of silent boxing movies.

This time it's Alfred Hitchcock's early drama 'The Ring' (1927), which I've never done before.

But in terms of music, I've found the Hitchcock silents lend themselves to a sort of reverse-engineered Bernard Herrmann approach. So that's what I'll be taking.

Today happens to be a spectacular mid-summer day (mid-80s, sunny but not humid), so we'll see what kind of turnout we get.

In our favor: the Hitchcock name, plus some good exposure in the local media.

The bell rings at 4:30 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are always welcome.

More details in the press release below.

And after the final punch is thrown in 'The Ring,' I then haul myself and my gear down to the Aeronaut Brewery in Somerville, Mass., where we're running the epic Douglas Fairbanks Sr. film 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924) at 8 p.m.

It's a great summertime flick: the granddaddy of all fantasy adventure movies. Flying carpets, magical spells, swashbuckling adventure, and more!

Artwork for the original release of 'The Thief of Bagdad.'

Doug was really firing on all cylinders in this big budget spectacular, which I think is the best of his 1920s epics.

I love presenting 'Thief,' in part because it always makes me feel like what a small kid in the 1920s must have felt like when he or she saw it in its original release.

I think of a small kid in some dusty plains town getting to go the moviehouse some hot Saturday afternoon, and seeing this.

I'm not a little kid, but 'The Thief of Bagdad' turns me into one every time.

And seeing it in a brewery with a big screen and a kick-ass sound system ought to be a really fun way to experience the movie.

The only issue is that because I'm a kid, I can't enjoy a few brews during the show, right?

Actually, I find I can't have any alcohol prior to accompanying a film. Even the slightest sip of wine seems to affect my ability to respond to a film musically.

Afterwards, it's another story entirely!

But back to tonight's show: We sometimes sell out screenings at the Aeronaut, which has limited capacity due to their occupancy permit.

But I just checked and it seems like there's room this evening for last-minute drop-ins. So come on down!

More info in the press release, which I'm posting below the one (below) about 'The Ring.'

* * *

A scene from Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Ring' (1927).

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Early Hitchcock film highlights Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre summer series of vintage boxing movies

'The Ring' (1927), silent drama of two fighters in love with same woman, to be screened on Sunday, July 24 with live musical accompaniment

WILTON, N.H.—An early film directed by Alfred Hitchcock is next up in a summer series of vintage boxing movies at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre.

'The Ring' (1927), an intense tale of two fighters battling over the same woman, will be screened with live music on Sunday, July 24 at 4:30 p.m.

The boxing series is part of the Wilton Town Hall Theatre's monthly silent film program. Admission to the screenings is free; a donation of $5 per person is suggested.

Live accompaniment will be provided by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film musician.

'The Ring,' an early Hitchcock effort, was made when the director was still working in his native Great Britain.

The future "master of suspense" was just 28 years old when he helmed this silent drama set in the colorful world of English carnivals and fairgrounds.

'The Ring' is based on Hitchcock's only original screenplay, although he worked extensively alongside other writers throughout his career.

Silent-era boxing dramas are of interest to sports buffs because they're filled with scenes of the fight game at the height of its mainstream popularity.

At the time, boxing rivaled baseball as the nation's most popular sport. Neighborhoods, communities, and ethnic groups all rooted for their favorite fighters, and heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey ranked as an international celebrity.

Boxing stories were popular with early movie audiences as well.

"As an elemental contest between two opponents, boxing inspired early filmmakers to do some some great work," Rapsis said. "It's a visual sport that doesn't require a lot of dialogue or commentary to understand, and so was perfect for silent movies."

The Wilton Town Hall Theatre has been showing films since 1912. In addition to running current releases on its two screens, the theater remains committed to alternative programming such as its ongoing series of silent films with live music.

The silent series gives local audiences to experience early cinema as it was intended to be seen: on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.

Keaton in 'Battling Butler,' to be shown in August.

The series concludes on Sunday, Aug. 28 with 'Battling Butler' (1926), Buster Keaton's uproarious boxing comedy about a pampered millionaire mistaken for a champion fighter.

The Summer Silent Boxing Film Series continues with a screening of Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Ring' (1927) on Sunday, July 24 at 4:30 p.m. at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre, 60 Main St., Wilton, N.H. Admission is free; a donation of $5 per person is suggested.

For more info, call (603) 654-3456 or visit For more info on the music, visit

* * *

Douglas Fairbanks Sr. plays the title role in 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924).

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Aeronaut Brewing to screen 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924) with live music on Sunday, 7/24

Epic silent film fantasy classic starring Douglas Fairbanks set new standards for Hollywood magic

SOMERVILLE, Mass. — Silent film with live music returns to the Aeronaut Brewing Co. this month with a screening of one of early Hollywood's most exciting fantasy adventure movies.

Douglas Fairbanks Sr. stars in 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924), to be shown on Sunday, July 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewery, 14 Tyler St. (near Union Square), Somerville, Mass.

Live music will be provided by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis. Admission is $10 per person.

Tickets are available online at; search on "Aeronaut Brewery."

Or here's a direct link to tickets.

The program is open to the public and is part of the Aeronaut's commitment to showcase local music, art, and performance.

The athletic Fairbanks was the Harrison Ford of his time—a pioneering action hero among the first to entertain movie audiences with thrilling on-screen adventures.

Among his best work is 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924), a timeless adventure boasting a great story, spectacular sets, and magical special effects.

In 'The Thief of Bagdad,' a bare-chested Fairbanks plays a crafty rogue who easily steals everything his heart desires—everything, that is, except the love of a beautiful princess, daughter of the powerful Caliph of Bagdad.

To win her hand, he must not only change his ways, but also convince her of his worthiness over many other highly placed suitors.

Doug flies carpet class in 'The Thief of Bagdad.'

In making the film, Fairbanks spared no expense for what some critics still regard as the most lavish fantasy movie ever made, a show-stopping adaptation of the traditional "A Thousand and One Nights" story in which a flying carpet is just one of many eye-popping sights that astounded movies audiences at the time.

Fairbanks, swaggering through massive marketplace sets and cavernous throne rooms as an incorrigible pickpocket, scales towering walls (with the help of a magic rope) and leads merry chases through crowded bazaars in his pursuit of loot—until he falls in love with the princess and vows to win her heart.

The jaunty opening is a preamble to the film's spectacular second half, in which the repentant thief embarks on an odyssey through caverns of fire, underwater palaces, and even outer space. Special effects range from a giant smoke-belching dragon to a magical flying horse, and still glow with a timeless sense of wonder from the early days of movies.

William Cameron Menzies's sets were among the largest ever created for a motion picture. Especially noteworthy is his design for a mythical Bagdad, a unique combination of Art Deco and Islamic elements—a dream city inspired by illustrations from story books.

Fairbanks, one of the most popular stars of the 1920s, was the inspiration for the character of George Valentin in the recent Oscar-winning Best Picture 'The Artist' (2011). Fairbanks was known for films that used the then-new medium of motion pictures to transport audiences to historical time periods for grand adventures and athletic stunts. He's often referred to as "Douglas Fairbanks Sr." to avoid confusion with his son, the actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

More than 90 years after its premiere, 'The Thief of Bagdad' continues to be held in high regard. In 1996, the film was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Fairbanks himself considered 'The Thief of Bagdad' to be his personal favorite of all of his films.

Live music for 'The Thief of Bagdad' will be provided by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis, who uses a digital synthesizer to create a traditional full orchestra "movie score" sound.

The screening continues the Aeronaut's silent film series, which aims to revive big-screen showings of great silent features that first caused audiences to fall in love with the movies.

"If you've never seen a silent film in a theater with live music and an audience, the Fairbanks pictures are a great way to experience the medium at its best," Rapsis said. "When you put all the elements together, silent film has an ability to stir up emotions in a way that no other medium can."

'The Thief of Bagdad' is appropriate for family audiences, although very small children may find some sequences frightening. The film runs 2 hours and 34 minutes.

'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924) starring Douglas Fairbanks will be screened with live music on Sunday, July 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewery, 14 Tyler St. (near Union Square), Somerville, Mass. Admission is $10 per person. Tickets are available online at; search on "Aeronaut Brewery." For more info, visit

Here's a direct link to tickets.

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