Tuesday, May 4, 2021

This Sunday's silent '20,000 Leagues' in Wilton, NH possibly playing host to steampunk flash mob?

Promotional artwork for the original silent film version of Jules Verne's '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' (1916).

Today I received this nice note from Johnathan Vail, a silent film fan from Nashua, N.H.:

Hi Jeff,

We have been enjoying your accompaniment for many years and look forward to more.

Anyway with the Jules Verne coming up I thought it would be a fine time to do some steampunk as I was kind of thinking of doing a steampunk photo shoot and Wilton is a pretty good location for it. 

So mostly a heads up if there's some new people next week in costume.  And an opportunity if you have a pair of goggles and and top hat...

Wow! Nothing like a little steampunk to liven up rural New Hampshire. 

Let's hope this goes viral and downtown Wilton, N.H. (all one block of it) is overrun by people from the past's version of the future.  

Who knows? The show is attracting more notice than usual. Check out this extensive story in "Elf," the lifestyle magazine of the Keene (N.H.) Sentinel. (And thanks to writer Nicole Colson for a great job!)

All of this is in response to the upcoming screening of the original silent film version of '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' (1916). Showtime is Sunday, May 9 at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H.

More info is in the press release below. 

I first encountered the silent '20,000 Leagues' a decade ago, when I accompanied it for the annual 24-Hour Boston Science Fiction Marathon. 

At the time, I recall thinking: "Wow, is there a silent film version of everything?"

I've since come to realize that...yes, there is. There's a silent Wizard of Oz. There's a silent Ben Hur and a silent Ten Commandments. There's even a silent 'Risky Business,' although the 1925 version starring Vera Ralston is about as far away from the Tom Cruise edition as the earth is from the moon.

Which brings us back to Jules Verne.The silent version of '20,000 Leagues' is in some ways a salute to that other Verne classic, 'From the Earth to the Moon,' because seeing it today is like visiting another planet. 

Let's hope the steampunk contingent turns out in force to lend an other-worldly feel to the whole enterprise. See you there on Sunday!

*  *  *

Aboard (and astride) the Nautilus in '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' (1916).

Contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Town Hall Theatre to screen original 1916 silent film version of '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea'

Early adaptation of Jules Verne classic pioneered underwater photography; shown with live music on Sunday, May 9

WILTON, N.H.—The original silent film version of the Jules Verne classic '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' (1916) will be shown with live music on Sunday, May 9 at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H.

The screening is free to the public; a donation of $10 per person is suggested to support the Town Hall Theatre's silent film series.

The Town Hall Theatre continues to observe procedures to comply with all state and CDC public health guidelines. Capacity is limited to 50 percent; patrons are required to maintain social distance and wear masks until seated.

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

In production for more than two years by Universal, the original silent film version of '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' is an epic retelling of the classic Jules Verne novel, and with elements from other Verne stories mixed in.

Allen Holubar stars as the domineering Captain Nemo, who rescues the passengers of an American naval vessel after ramming them with his iron-clad steampunk submarine, The Nautilus.

Incorporating material from Verne’s 'Mysterious Island,' the film also follows the adventures of a group of Civil War soldiers whose hot-air balloon crash lands on an exotic island, where they encounter the untamed “Child of Nature” (Jane Gail).

Calling itself “The First Submarine Photoplay Ever Filmed,” the film is highlighted by pioneering underwater photography, including an underwater funeral and a deep sea diver’s battle with a giant cephalopod.

The film, directed by Stuart Paton, was filmed largely in the Bahamas to take advantage of shallow seas and bright sunshine. 

Several methods were devised to capture scenes underwater, including a sort of "reverse periscope lens" that used mirrors in long tubes to enable a camera onboard ship to film below the surface. 

The film has little in common with a later adaption released in 1954 by Walt Disney Studios and starring James Mason. (At left is the dust jacket for the novelization of the movie, which itself was adapted from Verne's novel. Are we all clear on that?)

In honor of extraordinary technical and artistic achievement, the silent version of '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Accompanist Jeff Rapsis will create a musical score for '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' live during the screening, in the manner of theater organists during the height of silent cinema.

"For most silent films, including '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,' there was never any sheet music and no official score," Rapsis said. "So creating original music on the spot to help the film's impact is all part of the experience of silent cinema."

"That's one of the special qualities of silent cinema," Rapsis said. "Although the film itself is well over a century old, each screening is a unique experience — a combination of the movie, the music, and the audience reaction."

The original silent film version of '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' (1916) will be screened with live music on Sunday, May 9 at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H. Free admission; a donation of $10 per person is suggested to support the Town Hall Theatre's silent film series.

For more information, visit www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com or call (603) 654-3456.


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