Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Coming next: Metropolis (1927)

I'm very excited to be doing music for one of the big iconic silent films: 'Metropolis' (1927), which we'll screen on Monday, April 4 at 7 p.m. at the Palace Theatre in downtown Manchester, N.H.

Not only is it a great film in its own right, especially with the newly rediscovered missing footage, but time has made it even more interesting, I think. Why? Because it now has this added level of richness in that it's a vision of the future from the past.

Also, it's a great film for music, and I'm enjoying the process of putting together material. I plan to go beyond my usual traditional orchestral sound and push the capabilities of the synthesizer, as I did in February with the screening of the 1916 version of '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.' in Boston.

Here's a press release with full info. Hope to see you at the screening!

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Restored 'Metropolis' presented on big screen at Palace Theatre

Landmark sci-fi movie to be shown with live music on Monday, April 4 in Manchester, N.H.

MANCHESTER, N.H.—A silent movie hailed as the grandfather of all science fiction fantasy films will be screened with live music on Monday, April 4 at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, N.H. The show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are $8 general admission.

'Metropolis' (1927), regarded as German director Fritz Lang's masterpiece, is set in a futuristic city where a privileged elite lead lives of leisure while the masses toil deep underground. The film, with its visions of futuristic factories and flying cars, set new standards for visual design and inspired generations of dystopian fantasies from Ridley Scott's 'Blade Runner' to Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil.'

The version of 'Metropolis' to be screened at the Palace is a newly restored print that includes nearly a half-hour of missing footage that was cut just after the film's premiere in 1927. The footage, discovered in 2008 in an archive in Argentina, is taken from a 16mm print of the complete film; it has since been added to the existing 'Metropolis,' allowing plot threads and characters to be developed more fully.

Critics have hailed the newly restored 'Metropolis' as further augmenting the value of an influential piece of cinema that still astonishes audiences with its large scale, powerful visuals, and dramatic symbolism.

"One of the fascinating things about this new 'Metropolis' is that it couldn't be clearer what the restored material is," wrote Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan in 2010. "The restorers found no less than 96 places where trims had been made, and though some cut just a few seconds, others are as long as seven minutes. Bringing back these scenes restores entire subplots, makes characters more comprehensible and, in general, makes the film's story much easier to follow," Turan wrote.

The film was noteworthy for nearly bankrupting U.F.A., the German studio where Lang made 'Metropolis.' The director labored on the film for more than a year, using more than 36,000 extras.

In terms of story, 'Metropolis' is a futuristic spectacle about class divisions in a glittering high-rise city. The film is an artifact of abstract expressionism; the mammoth sets are populated with archetypes, from industrial overlord Joh Federsen and his mad-scientist henchman Rotwang to the uniformed workers who trudge through the underground boiler rooms.

Caught between the two worlds that Lang labels the Head and the Hand is the overlord's son Freder (Gustav Frohlich). After an encounter with a crusading teacher, Maria (Brigitte Helm), Freder follows her into the catacombs, where he learns that the impoverished workers who have fed his lifestyle are awaiting a prophesied savior.

"The Complete 'Metropolis' is astonishing, a fully realized work of art whose influence on science fiction, set design and symbolism can scarcely be put into words," wrote St. Louis Post-Dispatch Critic Joe Williams in July, 2010.

'Metropolis' will be accompanied by music created live by New Hampshire-based composer Jeff Rapsis, who recently created a score for the original 1916 silent version of '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' for the annual Boston Science Fiction marathon in February, 2011.

All movies in the Palace Theatre’s silent film series were popular when first released, but are rarely screened today in a way that shows them at their best. They were not made to be shown on television; to revive them, organizers aim to show the films at the Palace as they were intended—in top quality restored prints, on a large screen, with live music, and with a live audience.

Screenings in the Palace Theatre’s silent series take place on Mondays at 7 p.m. ‘Metropolis’ will be shown on Monday, April 4, at 7 p.m. the Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester, N.H. Admission is $8 per person, general admission seating. Tickets available at the door or in advance by calling the Palace Theatre box office, (603) 668-5588 or online at www.palacetheatre.org.

The Palace Theatre’s silent film series is sponsored by HippoPress and Looser Than Loose Vintage Entertainment of Manchester.


“'Metropolis' does what many great films do, creating a time, place and characters so striking that they become part of our arsenal of images for imagining the world.”
—Roger Ebert, 2010, The Chicago Sun-Times

“If it comes anywhere near your town, go see it and thank the movie Gods that it even exists. There’s no star rating high enough.”
—Brian Tallerico, Movieretriever.com

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For more info, contact:
Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com
Images attached.
More high-resolution digital images available upon request.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

'The Mask of Zorro' on Sunday, March 27

I'm looking forward to doing music for 'The Mark of Zorro' (1920) at the end of this month, but it would be even more exciting if we could decorate the theater as extensively as this house in Washington, D.C. at the time of the film's original release. Click on this photo to enlarge it and you'll see a rather bored-looking Zorro knock-off posing in front of the doors. Not sure if we'd be able to get anyone to play the Masked Avenger outside our theater, and besides, it would probably use up all we take in donations to make bail for him.

One thing to note is that originally we'd hoped to screen both of the Fairbanks 'Zorro' films (the 'Mark' as well as its 1925 sequel, 'Don Q'), but it turned out that this would have run to something like nearly four hours of swashbuckling in Spanish California, which not only wouldn't fit the three-hour window we have, but would have been too much of a marathon even for me.

And that's especially true because I'll be playing this film one day after returning from a trip to the nation of Nepal, where I'm making a ten-day trek off the grid (no roads) into the heart of the Annapurna Sanctuary. I imagine I'll be having Dennis stop the film every 20 minutes so I can go to the bathroom. Just kidding. Maybe.

But here's the press release. I had no idea that the Fairbanks 'Zorro' film was part of the Batman story, but it makes all the sense in the world, doesn't it?

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For more info, contact:
Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Original 'Zorro' to screen with live music in Wilton, N.H. on Sunday, March 27

Silent version starring Douglas Fairbanks inspired DC Comics 'Batman' comic character

WILTON, N.H.—It was the original swashbuckling blockbuster—the film that first brought 'Zorro' to the big screen, and also turned actor Douglas Fairbanks into Hollywood's first-ever action hero. 'The Mark of Zorro' (1920) will be screened with live music on Sunday, March 27 at 4:30 p.m. at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H. Admission is free.

'The Mark of Zorro,' a huge hit when first released, tells the story of Don Diego Vega, the outwardly foppish son of a wealthy ranchero Don Alejandro in Spanish California of the early 19th century. Seeing the mistreatment of the poor by rich landowners and the oppressive colonial government, Don Diego assumes the identity of "SeƱor Zorro," a masked figure of great cunning and skill, and vows to bring justice to the region. He also woos the beautiful Lolita Pulido, a woman who is distinctly unimpressed with Don Diego, but who is captivated by the masked swordsman.

The film stars Douglas Fairbanks Sr., who until 'Zorro' had played traditional all-American leading roles in contemporary romantic comedies. The success of 'Zorro' launched Fairbanks on a series of historical adventure films that ranked among the most popular spectacles of the silent era, including 'The Three Musketeers' (1921), 'Robin Hood' (1922), 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924), and 'The Black Pirate' (1926). The original 'Zorro' film was so popular it inspired one of Hollywood's first big-budget sequels, 'Don Q, Son of Zorro' (1925), also starring Fairbanks.

Critics have praised 'The Mark of Zorro' for its tight story, fast pace, and many action sequences, which include numerous stunts all performed by Fairbanks himself. Steven D. Greydanus of the Decent Films Guide wrote that the silent Zorro "...contains some of the most jaw-dropping stunts I’ve ever seen this side of Jackie Chan." Film writer Leonard Maltin described 'Zorro' as a "silent classic with Fairbanks as the masked hero...perhaps Doug's best film...nonstop fun!"

This genre-defining swashbuckler was the first movie version of tale. The film was based on the 1919 story "The Curse of Capistrano" by Johnston McCulley, which introduced the masked hero, Zorro. The screenplay was adapted by Fairbanks under the pseudonym "Elton Thomas" and Eugene Miller. The story has since been remade and adapted many times, including in 1940, 1978, and most recently in 1998 as 'The Mask of Zorro' starring Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas.

'The Mark of Zorro' was the first film released by the newly formed United Artists studio, formed in 1920 by Fairbanks with fellow silent film superstars Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and director D.W. Griffith. The silent version of 'Zorro' also played a key role in the formation of the DC Comics Batman character; in the original 1939 story, a young Bruce Wayne sees 'Zorro' on the same night that his parents are later murdered, which leads him to adopt Zorro's mask, cape, and some of his methods as a basis for his own transformation into 'Batman.'

The March 27 screening of 'The Mark of Zorro' will be accompanied by a score created and performed live by silent film musician Jeff Rapsis. Rapsis achieves a traditional "movie score" sound for silent film screenings by using a digital synthesizer that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra.

'The Mark of Zorro' will be screened on Sunday, March 27 at 4:30 p.m. at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre, Main Street, in Wilton, N.H. For more information, visit www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com or call (603) 654-3456. The Wilton Town Hall Theatre runs silent film programs with live music each month. See for yourself films that made audiences first fall in love with the movies!