Monday, October 23, 2017

Coming up next: 'The Man Who Laughs' on Wednesday, 10/25 at the Regent Theatre

Conrad Veidt and Olga Baklanova in 'The Man Who Laughs.'

Coming up next: live music for 'The Man Who Laughs' (1928), one of the truly great silent films for Halloween.

Nothing wrong with perennial favorites 'Nosferatu' and 'Phantom.' But if I had my way, 'The Man Who Laughs' would screen just as often.

Never seen it? You chance is coming this week: it's playing on Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Mass.

More details in the press release below.

Actually, I think 'The Man Who Laughs' is a great film for any time of the year. It's a truly skillful adaptation of an underrated Victor Hugo novel.

And the title character seems tailor-made for silent film: a man whose disfigured face forces him to display an insane grin no matter what tragedy befalls him. Talk about visuals!

The film's principle drawing card for today's audiences is that the make-up job for the title character, played by Conrad Veidt, inspired the look of Batman's nemesis, the Joker.

But 'The Man Who Laughs' is not just a make-up job. It's full of strong performances, starting with Veidt, who gives it his all in a role that must have been a challenge to realize.

The supporting cast is equally strong, and generously salted with odd-ball character actors that director Paul Leni often employed.

Even Mary Philbin, as the blind Dea, redeems herself from her 'Phantom' over-acting with a remarkably nuanced performance.

And the story really taps into the big emotions that drive the greatest silent films: love with a capital L, fear, jealousy, joy, greed, and so much more.

So I invite you to join us for 'The Man Who Laughs' at the Regent, a fantastic neighborhood theater and performance space that's an ideal venue for silent film to be seen at its best.

* * *

A few notes from the road.

Lately, if my life were a Dr. Seuss book, it would be "Oh, The Places You'll Go!"

Really: with Halloween coming up fast, the past five days have taken me to silent film screenings in all kinds of venues.

How about a town office complex in Jacksonville, Vermont?

Or the Tuscan Opera House, a ramshackle function hall just down the road from an enormous paper mill complex in Rumford, Maine? (On the program: 'The Man Who Laughs.'

And Brandon Town Hall in Brandon, Vt., where I accompanied the silent version of 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.'

And how about the newly renovated Natick Center for the Arts in Natick, Mass.?

In a break from the Halloween programming, the folks in Natick opted for a Charlie Chaplin comedy program to launch what's hoped to be a regular silent film/live music series.

It's about the right size, and the projection system is top notch.

So I hope a series comes to pass, as it's an excellent venue for silent film. As a bonus, it has a brand spanking new Yamaha concert grand piano right in the hall:

I didn't make use of it as I had already set up my digital synthesizer for the Chaplin program. But I spent some time getting to know the Yamaha, and it's like driving a Porsche. I look forward to working with it for future programs if the opportunity arises.

* * *

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

'The Man Who Laughs' (1928) to screen with live music on Wednesday, Oct. 25 at Regent Theatre

Just in time for Halloween: Creepy silent film thriller inspired the look of Batman's nemesis 'The Joker'

ARLINGTON. Mass.—'The Man Who Laughs' (1928), a classic silent film thriller, will be screened with live music on Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. at the Regent Theatre, 7 Medford St., Arlington, Mass.

General seating admission is $12 per person in advance or day of show.

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

'The Man Who Laughs,' directed by Paul Leni and starring Conrad Veidt, is a silent thriller about a disfigured man forced to wear an insane grin all his life.

The movie was a popular and ground-breaking silent film adaptation of a sprawling Victor Hugo novel set in 17th century England.

Veidt stars as Gwynplaine, a child born of English nobility. After his father is executed, a cruel King James II orders a royal surgeon to hideously disfigure young Gwynplaine's face into a permanent smile, so that he may always laugh at his father's foolishness.

Abandoned and shunned, young Gwynplaine is left to make his way on his own. He learns to conceal his face from strangers, befriending Dea, a blind girl who is not aware of his disfigurement.

The pair are then adopted and put to work by a travelling impresario, who makes use of Gwynplaine's startling face in his theatrical productions.

Gwynplaine and Dea grow to adulthood and eventually fall in love, but complications arise when Gwynplaine's noble lineage is revealed, entitling him to his father's estate—provided he marry another woman of noble birth.

Veidt, who starred earlier in the German expressionist horror classic 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' (1919), played the role of Gwynplaine by using a prosthetic device inside his mouth to force his face into a hideous grin and display outsized teeth.

This striking look was later adapted by Batman creator Bob Kane as a model for the physical appearance of iconic villain 'The Joker.'

Critics have praised 'The Man Who Laughs' for its dark visual style and daring story content.

"'The Man Who Laughs' is a melodrama, at times even a swashbuckler, but so steeped in Expressionist gloom that it plays like a horror film," wrote Roger Ebert in 2004. "The film is more disturbing than it might have been because of Leni's mastery of visual style."

Director Leni, originally trained as an artist, made ample use of shadows and darkness in 'The Man Who Laughs,' which set the stage for many legendary Universal horror classics soon to follow, including 'Dracula' (1931) and 'Frankenstein' (1931).

Upcoming programs of silent film with live music at the Regent include:

• Friday, Jan. 26 at 7 p.m., 'The Wizard of Oz' (1925). Early silent film version of Frank L. Baum's immortal tales features silent comedian Larry Semon in a slapstick romp that also casts Oliver Hardy as the Tin Man and takes extreme liberties with the beloved classic tales and characters. Oz as you've never seen it before!

'The Man Who Laughs' (1928) will be screened on Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. at the Regent Theatre, 7 Medford St., Arlington, Mass.

General seating admission is $12 per person in advance or day of show. Tickets may be booked online at For more information, call the theater at (781) 646-4849.

For more information on the music, visit

No comments:

Post a Comment