Friday, October 14, 2016

For whom the dingy bell tolls: 'Cat and Canary'
tonight at Red River Theatres in Concord, N.H.

Nailed! Character actor Tully Marshall in 'The Cat and the Canary' (1927).

Last night, after a well-received screening of the Fritz Lang epic 'Woman in the Moon,' I was leaving the Flying Monkey Moviehouse when one of the staff guys there, Jessie, called me back.

"I almost forgot," he said, opening the box office. He retrieved a "dingy bell" that I had left behind the last time I was there, doing music for Harold Lloyd's 'The Freshman.'

And isn't it odd that tonight, I DO need that dingy bell?

Specifically: I'm doing music for 'The Cat and the Canary' (1927) at Red River Theatres in Concord, N.H. Early in the film, we're treated to images of the insides of a clock as it chimes the midnight hour.

And I know what would have happened later today. Getting my stuff ready for the show, I would have gone crazy looking for my dingy bell, not knowing that I had left it in Plymouth, N.H. a month before.

Instead, I was reunited with my dingy bell just last night, and just in time for tonight's screening.

And yes, I know a dingy bell's official name is a "bellhop bell." But I prefer "dingy bell" if for no other reason it's the name of Mickey Rooney's character in 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.' (1963).

Hope you can join us for a pre-Halloween showing of one of the most visually interesting silent films in the catalog—a visual feast of strange camera angles, strange settings, and strange faces filling up the screen.

And it's all pretty spooky, too. More info in the press release below. Hope to see you there!

And this weekend brings a mini-roadtrip to venues in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Boston.

On Saturday night, I'm accompanying 'The Man Who Laughs' (1928) as our season-ending "Chiller Theatre" program at Brandon Town Hall in Brandon, Vt.

And Sunday brings a double-header.

It starts with an afternoon program of Lon Chaney pics 'The Unknown' (1927) and 'Phantom of the Opera' (1925) in Charlestown, N.H.—a town where I once worked as a reporter!

This will be followed by a mad dash to the Somerville Theatre (just outside Boston, Mass.) to do music for 'The Unknown' again.

Although in the case of the Somerville, 'The Unknown' will be in the form of a 35mm print as part of the theater's annual "Terrorthon" festival.

Showtimes and other details for each screening are listed in the "Upcoming Silent Film Screenings" link you'd find at the top right.

I'll be updating from the road, too. But for now, here's the complete press release for this evening's screening of director Paul Leni's great thriller, 'The Cat and the Canary' (1927). Enjoy!

* * *

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

'Cat and Canary' (1927) to play Red River with live music on Friday, Oct. 14

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

CONCORD, N.H.—'The Cat and the Canary' (1927), a haunted house thriller from Hollywood’s silent film era, will be screened with live music on Friday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. at Red River Theatres, 11 South Main St., Concord, N.H.

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

'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 Red River 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."

Martha Mattox and Laura Laplante in 'The Cat and the Canary' (1927).

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."

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.

'Cat and the Canary' will be shown on Friday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. at Red River Theatres, 11 South Main St., Concord, N.H. in the Jaclyn Simchik Screening Room. Admission is $10 per person; for more info, call (603) 224-4600 or visit For more about the music, visit

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