Monday, December 30, 2019

A big finish for 2019 with 'Four Horsemen,'
now a big start to 2020 with 'Metropolis'

Nigel De Brulier (upper left) gets ready to say his big line at the end of 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.'

One reason I create music for silent films is that the experience allows me to commune with the big emotions of life: Love with a capital L, or Fear, or Joy, or Despair.

I don't get that from any other story-telling art form, with the exception of opera.

So silent film is my way to remind myself I'm still alive, and what the big emotions feel like. It doesn't always happen, but when it does, it makes it all worthwhile.

Well, I'm pleased to say it happened in spades yesterday afternoon at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H., where I accompanied "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" (1921) before a near-capacity crowd.

There are things in this big, sprawling picture that greatly move me. And it all leads up to one very special moment right at the end, when the Nigel De Brulier character is asked if he knew a man buried in an enormous hillside cemetery.

"I knew them all," he cries in the graveyard, and at that moment I feel like I'm connected to all of humanity, to something great and wonderful and meaningful—something larger than myself.

The crowd seemed to get it as well, judging from the response throughout and the reaction afterward. I even earned a partial "Standing O" from one side of the room.

Thank you to everyone who joined the journey, both for this screening and for more than 100 others during 2019. It's been a great year and I'm looking forward to 2020.

Speaking of which...

My next screening (and first of 2020) is 'Metropolis' (1927), which will be screened on Sunday, Jan. 5 at 2 p.m. at the Colonial Theatre in Keene, N.H.

For complete info, here's the press release. Hope to see you at the movies!

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'Metropolis' (1927) will be shown on Sunday, Jan. 5 at 2 p.m. at the Colonial Theatre in Keene, N.H.

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Restored classic film 'Metropolis' to screen at Colonial on Sunday, Jan. 5

Landmark early sci-fi fantasy epic, with half-hour of rediscovered footage, to be shown with live music

KEENE, N.H.—A silent film hailed as the grandfather of all science fiction fantasy movies will be screened with live music at the Colonial Theatre in Keene, N.H.

'Metropolis' (1927), an epic adventure set in a futuristic world, will be shown on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020 at 2 p.m. at the Colonial Theatre, 95 Main St., Keene, N.H.

The screening, the latest in the Colonial Theatre's silent film series, will feature live accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer who specializes in creating music for silent films.

Admission is $10 per person general admission. Tickets are available online at or at the door.

'Metropolis' (1927), regarded as German director Fritz Lang's masterpiece, is set in a society where a privileged elite pursue lives of leisure while the masses toil on vast machines and live in poverty.

The film, with its visions of futuristic factories and underground cities, set new standards for visual design and inspired generations of dystopian fantasies from Ridley Scott's 'Blade Runner' to Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil.'

In reviving 'Metropolis' and other great films of cinema's early years, the Colonial aims to show silent movies as they were meant to be seen—in high quality prints, on a large screen, with live music, and with an audience.

"All those elements are important parts of the silent film experience," said Rapsis, who will improvise an original live score for 'Metropolis' on the spot. "Recreate those conditions, and the classics of early cinema leap back to life."

In 'Metropolis,' the story centers on an upper class young man who falls in love with a woman who works with the poor. The tale encompasses mad scientists, human-like robots, underground spiritual movements, and industrial espionage, all set in a society divided between haves and have-nots.

The version of 'Metropolis' to be screened at the Colonial is a newly restored edition that includes nearly a half-hour of missing footage cut following the film's premiere in 1927. The lost footage, discovered in 2008 in an archive in Argentina, has since been added to the existing 'Metropolis,' allowing plot threads and characters to be developed more fully.

When first screened in Berlin, Germany on Jan. 10, 1927, the sci-fi epic ran an estimated 153 minutes. After its premiere, the film's distributors (including Paramount in the U.S.) drastically shortened 'Metropolis' to maximize the film's commercial potential. By the time it debuted in the U.S. later that year, the film was only about 90 minutes long.

Even in its shortened form, 'Metropolis' became a cornerstone of science fiction cinema. Due to its enduring popularity, the film has undergone numerous restorations in the intervening decades in attempts to recover Lang's original vision.

It was widely believed that this would be the most complete version of Lang's film that contemporary audiences could ever hope to see. But, in the summer of 2008, the curator of the Buenos Aires Museo del Cine discovered a 16mm dupe negative of 'Metropolis' that was considerably longer than any existing print.

It included not merely a few additional snippets, but 25 minutes of "lost" footage, about a fifth of the film, that had not been seen since its Berlin debut.

The discovery of such a significant amount of material called for yet another restoration, a 2½-hour version that debuted in 2010 to widespread acclaim. It's this fully restored edition that will be screened at the Center for the Arts.

" 'Metropolis' stands as an stunning example of the power of silent film to tell a compelling story without words, and reach across the generations to touch movie-goers from the real future, which means us," said accompanist Jeff Rapsis, who provides live music for silent film screenings throughout New England and beyond.

To accompany a silent film, Rapsis uses a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra. The score is created live in real time as the movie is screened. Rather than focus exclusively on authentic music of the period, Rapsis creates new music for silent films that draws from movie scoring techniques that today's audiences expect from the cinema.

The restored 'Metropolis' will be shown on Sunday, Jan. 5 at 2 p.m. at the Colonial Theatre, 95 Main St., Keene, N.H. Admission is $10 per person general admission. Tickets are available online at or at the door. For more information, call the Colonial at (603) 352-2033.


“'Metropolis' does what many great films do, creating a time, place and characters so striking that they become part of our arsenal of images for imagining the world.”
—Roger Ebert, 2010, The Chicago Sun-Times

“If it comes anywhere near your town, go see it and thank the movie Gods that it even exists. There’s no star rating high enough.”
—Brian Tallerico,

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Coming on Sunday, 12/29 in Wilton, N.H.:
'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' (1921)

Rudolph Valentino introduces the Tango in 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.'

Final screening of the year is Sunday afternoon at the Town Hall Theatre at Wilton, N.H., and it's a doozy.

'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' (1921) is one of my favorite silent dramas, and I'm not alone: it was the sixth-highest grossing picture of the era.

To me, it's one of the first mainstream Hollywood pictures to make full use of the visual and imaginative powers of cinema, which were still being discovered.

D.W. Griffith and other first-generation directors knew how to tell stories, which was often the main strength of their work.

But Rex Ingram, who helmed 'Four Horsemen,' and his collaborators were able to take it a step further by weaving visual allegory into their drama in a way that only movies could.

The Four Horsemen of the title aren't just abstract metaphors or symbols. In Ingram's realization of the tale, we get to see them on screen, brought to life before our eyes as they come to life in some kind of steamy underworld, and then ride together through the skies.

And with a giant fire-breathing dragon to boot!

None of this is part of the reality of War I in France, which the movie depicts with documentary realism. But the Four Horsemen are still seamlessly woven into the fabric of the tale, giving the narrative a visual impact that's part of the power of cinema, I think.

Come see for yourself! On top of everything else, 'Four Horsemen' also has Rudolph Valentino introducing the tango, launching a craze that endures to this very day.

Here's the press release with more info about the film and our screening:

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A scene from 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' (1921).

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Rudolph Valentino in 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' on Sunday, Dec. 29 at Town Hall Theatre

Ground-breaking silent film epic launched 'Latin Lover' to stardom, started tango dance craze; to be screened with live musical accompaniment

WILTON, N.H.—An epic drama that launched the career of silent film heartthrob and megastar Rudolph Valentino will be shown this month at the Town Hall Theatre.

'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' (1921), a multi-generational family saga that climaxes during World War I, will be screened with live music on Sunday, Dec. 29 at 4:30 p.m. at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H.

The screening is free and open to the public; a donation of $5 per person is requested to defray expenses.

Based on a novel by Spanish author Vicente Blasco IbaƱez, 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' tells the story of an extended Argentine family with mixed ethnic background: one side is German, while the other is French.

The family get drawn into World War I in far-off Europe, with members ending up on opposing sides. With brothers pitted against one another on the battlefield, the destruction of war changes lives forever.

'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' had a huge cultural impact, becoming the top-grossing film of 1921, beating out Charlie Chaplin's 'The Kid,' and going on to become the sixth-best-grossing silent film of all time.

Also, the film turned then-little-known actor Rudolph Valentino into a superstar, associating him with the image of the Latin Lover. In addition, the film inspired a tango craze and fashion fads such as gaucho pants.

Directed by Rex Ingram for Metro Pictures (an ancestor of MGM studios), 'Four Horsemen' grew into a mammoth production: over $1 million was spent in making it and more than 12,000 people were involved. The film was hugely successful at the box office, grossing nearly $5 million during its initial run, an enormous sum at the time.

The film was notable as one of the first major Hollywood productions to include World War I (then known as the 'Great War') in its storyline, and also in that it did not glorify the recent conflict or look past the tragedy that it brought. It's also among the first U.S. feature films to make full use of the unlimited visual power of the new motion picture medium.

Although Valentino dominates the film, other actors of note are featured. Alice Terry, the billed star as well as Ingram's wife, was a popular actress of her day. She would be cast in the next Ingram/Valentino flick rushed out in the same year before Rudy's jump to Paramount, The Conquering Power (1921).

Alan Hale Sr. appears in a supporting role; he was perhaps best known as Errol Flynn's sidekick in numerous films, his role of Little John in several Robin Hood flicks, and as the father of Alan Hale, Jr., who played the Skipper on the television series Gilligan's Island.

'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' was the brainchild of Metro screenwriter June Mathis, who went on to become one of the most powerful woman in early Hollywood, helping Valentino manage his career until his untimely death of peritonitis at age 31 in 1926.

The film was remade as '4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse' in 1962, with the setting changed to World War II.

In 1995, the silent version of 'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Regarding the title: the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are mentioned in the Bible in chapter six of the Book of Revelation, which predicts that they will ride during the Apocalypse. The four horsemen are traditionally named War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death.

"This is a big sprawling drama, and a great chance to see Rudolph Valentino in the picture that launched his celebrity," said Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist who will create live music for the screening.

Rapsis will improvise live musical accompaniment during the show, using a digital synthesizer to recreate the sound of a full orchestra and other more exotic textures.

"Creating the music on the spot is a bit of a high-wire act, but it contributes a level of energy that's crucial to the silent film experience," Rapsis said.

‘The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ (1921) starring Rudolph Valentino will be shown with live music on Sunday, Dec. 29 at 4:30 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H. Admission is free; a donation of $5 per person is suggested to defray expenses. For more info, call (603) 654-3456 or visit