Thursday, October 24, 2019

'Man Who Laughs' tonight in Concord, N.H. starts run of four spooky shows in three states

As the lyric goes: you're never fully dressed without a smile.

This year, Halloween has come upon us frighteningly fast.

One reason is that as we age, we perceive time as passing more rapidly. (That's scary just by itself.)

But this year, my obligations as director of a non-profit museum have served to put time into a trash compactor: weeks race by like days, months gallop by like weeks, and entire chunks of the calendar disappear every time my alarm goes off.

I do keep up with a pretty ambitious schedule of silent film screenings. I just don't have time to write about it.

But tonight starts a four-day stretch of spooky Halloween screenings that will take me all over the three states of northern New England: Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

So in attempt to stir the bubbling cauldron of audience interest, here's a preview of my spooky road trip, which starts tonight in Concord, N.H. with live accompaniment for 'The Man Who Laughs' (1928) at Red River Theatres.

A press release with complete info is tacked on below. But I have to say right up front: how amazing that Victor Hugo could come up with these sprawling tales that turn on human disfiguration, and often find love amidst unbelieveably human cruelty!

Thursday's 'Man Who Laughs' will be followed by Murnau's 'Faust' (1926) on Friday, Oct. 25 in Brandon, Vt.; then it's 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine on Saturday, Oct. 26, followed by 'Man Who Laughs' again on Sunday, Oct. 27 in Wilton, N.H.

And then Halloween will race by, and the next thing you know I'll be in San Francisco for a William S. Hart film at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. And then Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and Black History Month, and, and, and...

For complete details, check the "Upcoming Silent Films" link on the upper RH corner of this page.

And if you're up for 'The Man Who Laughs' tonight at Red River Theatres in Concord, N.H., here's all you need to know:

Original poster art for 'The Man Who Laughs' (1928), which I'm accompanying tonight at Red River Theatres in Concord.

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

'The Man Who Laughs' (1928) to screen with live music on Thursday, Oct. 24 at Red River

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

CONCORD, N.H. —'The Man Who Laughs' (1928), a silent film thriller, will be screened with live music on Thursday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at Red River Theatres, 11 South Main St. in Concord.

A live score will be created by accompanist Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based performer who specializes in music for silent film presentations. Tickets are general admission $12; Red River Theatres members $10.

Red River's silent film/live music series is sponsored by Alliance Audiology of Concord.

'The Man Who Laughs,' directed by Paul Leni and starring Conrad Veidt, is a silent drama 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 traveling 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.

An original lobby card for 'The Man Who Laughs.'

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).

'The Man Who Laughs' (1928) will be screened with live music by Jeff Rapsis on Thursday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at Red River Theatres, 11 South Main St. in Concord. General admission $12, Red River Theatres members $10; for more info and to purchase advance tickets, visit or call (603) 224-4600.

No comments:

Post a Comment