Saturday, December 17, 2022

Ending 2022 with yesterday's vision of tomorrow: Metropolis in Newport, R.I. on Tuesday, Dec. 27

Original poster art for 'Metropolis.'

One more to go in 2022, and it's a biggie: 'Metropolis' (1927), for which I'll be doing music on Tuesday, Dec. 27 at the Jane Pickens Theatre in Newport, R.I.

Showtime is 7 p.m.; lots more info in the press release below.

Looking ahead, 2023 beckons as another busy post-pandemic year of silent film music. 

Besides a full dance card of local shows, a pair of out-of-town performing trips are already on the calendar.

In January, I'll be playing for film programs at Cinema Detroit in Detroit, Mich., and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

And then in February, it's my annual pilgrimage to the Kansas Silent Film Festival at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.

I don't do personal New Year's resolutions as I don't ever seem to change. I'll soon be 60 years old, but I'm still bedeviled by teenage habits and personality trains, with a big helping of the Seven Deadly Sins mixed in.

But in terms of silent film accompaniment, according to my running list of silent feature films that  I've accompanied (maintained elsewhere on this blog), right now the total stands at 373.

So that means if I make an effort, 2023 may be the year the total crosses 400. Well, that's a big round number!

So, in between repeat screenings of popular titles that comprise the bulk of my work, I'll try to salt in a few obscure titles I've never before tackled. If I do an average of one every two weeks, I should make it!

One good sign: in planning its 2023 calendar, the Somerville Theatre has booked no less than four silent features that I've never played for before, including Lillian Gish in 'Annie Laurie'; Mary Pickford's early 'Cinderella;' the recently restored MGM blockbuster 'The Fire Brigade'; and Thomas Meighan in 'The Canadian.'

All are via 35mm prints from the Library of Congress—your tax dollars at work!

In the meantime, 'Metropolis' is up next. Hope you'll join us during that strange in-limbo week between Christmas and New Year's Day.

And a Happy New Year!

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A scene from 'Metropolis' (1927).

For more info, contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Restored classic sci-fi epic 'Metropolis' to screen in Newport on Tuesday, Dec. 27

Landmark early futuristic fantasy, with half-hour of rediscovered footage, to be shown with live music at Jane Pickens Theatre

NEWPORT, R.I.—A silent film hailed as the grandfather of all science fiction fantasy movies will be screened with live music in Newport during the upcoming holiday vacation week.

'Metropolis' (1927), an epic adventure set in a futuristic world, will be shown on Tuesday, Dec. 27 at 7 p.m. at the Jane Pickens Theatre Film and Event Center, 49 Touro St., Newport, R.I.

The screening, the latest in the venue'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 $15 per person; members $13. Tickets are available online 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 Jane Pickens Theatre 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.

From 'Metropolis' (1927).

The version of 'Metropolis' to be screened at the Jane Pickens Theatre 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.

The restoration work has continued in recent years. In 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 led to a 2½-hour version that debuted in 2010 to widespread acclaim. It's this fully restored edition that will be screened at the Jane Pickens Theatre.

" '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 Tuesday, Dec. 27 at 7 p.m. at the Jane Pickens Theatre Film and Event Center, 49 Touro St., Newport, R.I. Admission is $15 per person; members $13. Tickets are available online at or at the door. For more information, call the box office at (401) 846-5474.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

This Wednesday night! It's Rin Tin Tin to the rescue Dec. 14 at the Coolidge Corner Theatre

An original poster promoting Rin Tin Tin in 'The Night Cry' (1926).

I'm delighted to be doing live music this week for what I feel is one of the unknown gems of the silent era:'The Night Cry' (1926), an action-adventure featuring canine star Rin Tin Tin.

The film is being screened on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St., Brookline, Mass. More info in the press release below.

The Rin Tin Tin silents were all immensely popular starting with the first releases in 1922, after which Warner Bros. started churning them out as fast as possible. 

But 'The Night Cry' has a special quality that comes from the studio searching for fresh ways for their dog star to face peril and keep audiences coming.

As a result, in this picture 'Rinty' (his nickname at the time) faces off against one of the most unusual villains in movie history: a giant California condor! 

Yes—in 'The Night Cry,' it's not enough for Rin Tin Tin to battle a community of sheep ranchers who unjustly accuse him of killing newborn lambs. (One guess as to who's actually responsible.)

No—he must also battle the enormous bird of prey, source of the film's title and also any number of life-or-death encounters for our four-legged star as he strives to prove his innocence.

So with all this going for it, 'The Night Cry' is a great example of the kind of fast-paced melodramatic picture that prompted audiences all over the world to first fall in love with motion pictures. And it still has a slightly over-the-top sensibility that still causes audiences to gasp and cheer nearly a century after its release.

I encourage you to attend tomorrow night's screening to recapture the sense of wonder that cinema once provided in such abundance. 

Plus you get to see a dog match wits with a giant bird!

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A production still from 'The Night Cry' (1926) starring Rin Tin Tin.

For more info, contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Rin Tin Tin leaps back into action on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at Coolidge Corner Theatre

Legendary dog star races to the rescue, battles giant condor in 'The Night Cry' silent adventure film, presented with live music

BROOKLINE, Mass. — He couldn't speak. But that was no handicap during the silent film era.

He was Rin Tin Tin, the legendary German Shepherd dog whose popularity rivaled that of any human performer when the movies were brand new.

See for yourself on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m., when the Coolidge Corner Theatre screens a vintage Rin Tin Tin silent adventure film with live music.

In 'The Night Cry' (1926), Rin Tin Tin must clear his name after being accused of killing sheep, all while battling an unusual non-human nemesis—a giant California condor!

'The Night Cry' will be shown at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St., Brookline, Mass. Admission in $23 per person; tickets available at the door or via

The film—the latest installment in the Coolidge's 'Sounds of Silents' series—will be shown with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a composer and performer who specializes in scoring silent film.

Rin Tin Tin films were produced by the then-struggling Warner Bros. studio. They proved immensely popular around the world, with audiences marveling at the then-new German Shepherd breed's feats of derring-do as he outsmarted his human co-stars.

At the time, studio executives referred to Rin Tin Tin "the mortgage lifter" because the dog's pictures helped rescue the ailing studio from bankruptcy.

A lobby card promoting 'The Night Cry' (1926) starring Rin Tin Tin.

Rin Tin Tin became so popular, he was named "Best Actor" at the first-ever Academy Awards in 1929—until officials opted for a re-vote in favor of human performer Emil Jannings.

'The Night Cry' is unusual in that "Rinty" (the dog's nickname) battles not just human foes, but also a murderous California condor.

The original promotional copy for 'The Night Cry' captures the excitement that made Rin Tin Tin a box office sensation:

"A story of tense thrills and tenderness, of a dog's loyalty and man's cruelty—tense with the thrills of a terrifying fight between a giant condor and a Shepherd dog."

To improvise a live musical score for 'The Night Cry,' silent film musician Jeff Rapsis will use a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of a full orchestra.

"The Rin Tin Tin films are great pictures for audience reaction, even today," Rapsis said. "They're full of fast-paced action, great stunts—and they really move!"

Rin Tin Tin remained popular throughout the silent film era and until his death in 1932, which made headlines around the globe. But his progeny went on to star in later films and TV shows, keeping the name before the public for generations.

Rin Tin Tin's descendants are still bred, continuing the bloodline to the present day. The ongoing Rin Tin Tin phenomenon inspired a recent book, "Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend" by New Yorker writer Susan Orlean.

'The Night Cry' will be screened with live music on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St., Brookline, Mass. as part of the theater's 'Sounds of Silents' series.

The screening will feature live music for the movie by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis. General admission is $23 per person.

For more info and to buy tickets, visit or call (617) 734-2500.