Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday, Oct. 15 in Brandon, Vt.: 'Cat and Canary'

We finish up our 2011 season of silent film in Brandon (Vt.) Town Hall on Saturday, Oct. 15 with a 'Chiller Theatre' presentation of 'The Cat and the Canary' (1927), Paul Leni's wonderfully evocative haunted house thriller. It's being dubbed 'chiller theater' because the town hall is currently unheated, and it being October in New England, things can get downright frigid once the sun goes down. So we're taking the precaution of urging attendees to dress warmly, and hoping that once things get going, the magic of silent film will heat things up as well.

I have truly enjoyed presenting silent films in Brandon with live music during the past two years. People there have been enthusiastic, the screenings have raised money for the ongoing renovation of the town hall (which will someday have heat!), and I look forward to another season next year. Send in your requests and we'll see what we can do!

The screening of 'Cat and the Canary' is at 7 p.m. and is free to the public, though donations are accepted to help the renovation. And if it's not too cold, I have a short surprise to follow as a bonus. See you there. Here's the press release with more information...

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Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

'Cat and Canary' (1927) to play Brandon (Vt.) Town Hall with live music on Saturday, Oct. 15

Creepy haunted house silent film thriller to be shown after sundown in 'Chiller Theater'

BRANDON, Vt.—'The Cat and the Canary' (1927), a haunted house thriller from Hollywood’s silent film era, will be screened with live music as part of 'Chiller Theatre' on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Brandon Town Hall in Brandon, Vt. Admission is free; donations are encouraged, with proceeds to benefit the Town Hall's ongoing restoration.

The Halloween-themed screening is the final show for this season's silent film series at the Brandon Town Hall. Organizers have dubbed it "Chiller Theater" in part because the town hall remains unheated. Attendees are encouraged to dress warmly and bring a blanket to keep warm.

'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 Brandon 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."

The program also includes vintage short subjects.

'Cat and the Canary' will be shown on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Route 7, in Brandon, Vt. Admission is free; donations are encouraged, with proceeds to support ongoing renovation of the town hall. For more information, visit For more info on the music, visit

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