Thursday, October 11, 2018

The bells, bells, bells, bells, bells...
Accompanying 'Nosferatu' in Natick, Mass.

I will blink, and it will be Nov. 1.

That's what the last half of October feels like to a silent film accompanist.

Simply put, it's the busiest time of the year. And as you work your way through a calendar booked solid with screenings of 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' and 'Phantom of the Opera,' the days (and nights) begin to blur.

By the time Halloween itself rolls around, you begin to feel the way Max Schreck looks in 'Nosferatu.'

Speaking of which, that's the next one up: on Sunday, Oct. 14, I'll accompany the original vampire movie at The Center for the Arts in the Natick, Mass.

The fun (meaning "fun" as in "funeral") begins at 4 p.m. Better to run film before sundown in case any real vampires are lurking about.

The one tricky thing about doing music for 'Nosferatu' is a clock that strikes 12 to signal midnight's arrival. It happens twice, so I guess it's actually two tricky things.

It's a small clock, and has an external striking mechanism (a skeleton hitting a gong) that's clearly visible when the clock appears on camera.

However, in both cases, the clock begins striking 12 before it's seen by the audience. Rather, the characters on screen hear it first, before we in the audience get to see it.

So in both cases, you have to know when to start the chiming. And you have to pace it to match the slow, deliberate pace of striking depicted in the movie.

And in order to fit in exactly 12, you have to continue for a couple of strokes after the camera cuts away.

For this sound, I use what I call a "dingy bell," which is one of those small rounded bells mounted to hotel desks or store counters. Hit the button on the top, and it delivers a nice crisp 'Ding!'

If it all works out, and you actually do fit in exactly 12 dings, steadily and as the sense of terror grows around it, the effect is truly ominous.

So can I manage to start in time so that all 12 strokes fit in naturally? Only one way to find out!

For more info and details about 'Nosferatu,' please check out the press release below.

And don't blink, because then it'll be Nov. 1, and you'll have missed it.

* * *

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Creepy classic thriller 'Nosferatu' coming to Natick's Center for the Arts on Sunday, Oct. 14

Celebrate Halloween with pioneer silent horror movie on the big screen with live music—see it if you dare

NATICK, Masss.—Get into the Halloween spirit with a classic silent horror film!

'Nosferatu' (1922), the first screen adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel 'Dracula,' will be screened with live music on Sunday, Oct. 14 at 4 p.m. at the TCAN Center for the Arts, 14 Summer St., Natick, Mass.

The program will feature live music for the movie by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis. Admission is $10 per person for members; $12 for non-members. Tickets are available online at or at the door.

'Nosferatu' (1922), directed by German filmmaker F.W. Murnau, remains a landmark work of the cinematic horror genre. It was among the first movies to use visual design to convey unease and terror.

To modern viewers, the passage of time has made this unusual film seem even more strange and otherworldly.

It's an atmosphere that silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis will enhance in improvising live music on the spot for the Red River screening.

"The original 'Nosferatu' is a film that seems to get creepier as more time goes by," said Rapsis, a resident of Bedford, N.H. "It's a great way to celebrate Halloween and the power of silent film to transport audiences to strange and unusual places."

In 'Nosferatu,' actor Max Schreck portrays the title character, a mysterious count from Transylvania who travels to the German city of Bremen to take up residence.

In the town, a rise in deaths from the plague is attributed to the count's arrival. Only when a young woman reads "The Book of Vampires" does it become clear how to rid the town of this frightening menace.

Director Murnau told the story with strange camera angles, weird lighting, and special effects that include sequences deliberately speeded up.

Although 'Nosferatu' is suitable for all family members, the overall program may be too intense for very young children to enjoy.

Modern critics say the original 'Nosferatu' still packs a powerful cinematic punch.

“Early film version of Dracula is brilliantly eerie, full of imaginative touches that none of the later films quite recaptured,” Leonard Maltin wrote recently.

Critic Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader called 'Nosferatu' "...a masterpiece of the German silent cinema and easily the most effective version of Dracula on record.”

Despite the status of 'Nosferatu' as a landmark of early cinema, another scary aspect of the film is that it was almost lost forever.

The film, shot in 1921 and released in 1922, was an unauthorized adaptation of Stoker's novel, with names and other details changed because the studio could not obtain rights to the novel.

Thus "vampire" became "Nosferatu" and "Count Dracula" became "Count Orlok." After the film was released, Stoker's widow filed a copyright infringement lawsuit and won; all known prints and negatives were destroyed under the terms of settlement.

However, intact copies of the the film would surface later, allowing 'Nosferatu' to be restored and screened today as audiences originally saw it. The image of actor Max Schreck as the vampire has become so well known that it appeared in a recent 'Sponge Bob Squarepants' espisode.

‘Nosferatu’ will be shown on Sunday, Oct. 14 at 4 p.m. at the TCAN Center for the Arts, 14 Summer St., Natick, Mass. Admission is $10 per person for members; $12 for non-members. Tickets are available online at or at the door.

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