Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Last-minute switcheroo: This weekend, it's Buster Keaton, not Harold Lloyd, in New York City

A lobby card for Buster Keaton's feature 'The Cameraman' (1928).

Apologies in advance for changing the schedule of silent film screenings at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H.

This Sunday, April 20, we'll screen Buster Keaton's 'The Cameraman' (1928) at 2 p.m. as part of our ongoing 'Silent New York' series.

The Keaton comedy will be shown in place of Harold Lloyd's comedy 'Speedy' (1928), which we had to postpone until later in the series. The new date for the Lloyd film will be Sunday, May 28 at 2 p.m.

This switch comes on the heels of having to reschedule a Marion Davies feature, 'The Lights of Old Broadway' (1925), earlier this month due to my ever-changing schedule.

Apologies to those who ventured to the Town Hall Theatre on Sunday, April 16, only to find the film scheduled for a week later. (We had changed the date two months earlier, and even updated the fliers, but some people still had the old fliers.)

We did run 'Lights' on Sunday, April 23, with the film getting an extremely positive reaction. It's the first time I've accompanied this title; it's another Marion Davies film that seems to have solid staying power.

This weekend, it's Buster's turn in the spotlight as our series of silent films set the Big Apple continues. See you Sunday, April 30 for 'The Cameraman' (1928)!

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Buster Keaton stars in 'The Cameraman' (1928).

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

Buster Keaton in 'The Cameraman' as Town Hall Theatre continues Big Apple salute

Classic silent comedy to screen Sunday, April 30 with live music; latest in series of vintage movies set in New York City

WILTON, N.H.—He never smiled on camera, earning him the nickname of "the Great Stone Face." But Buster Keaton's comedies rocked Hollywood's silent era with laughter throughout the 1920s.

See for yourself with a screening of 'The Cameraman' (1928) one of Keaton's landmark feature films, on Sunday, April 30 at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H.

Admission is free; a donation of $10 per person at each screening is suggested to help defray expenses.

The family-friendly screening is the latest in the Town Hall Theatre's series of vintage silent feature films all set in the Big Apple.

The film will be shown with live music by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis.

'The Cameraman' tells the story of a young man (Keaton) who tries to impress the girl of his dreams (Marceline Day) by working as a freelance newsreel cameraman.

His efforts fail spectacularly, but then a lucky break gives him an unexpected chance to make his mark. Can Buster parlay the scoop of the year into a secure job and successful romance?

'The Cameraman' will be preceded by 'Sherlock Jr.' (1924), in which Buster plays a small-town movie projectionist who dreams of working as a detective.

But then Buster's romantic rival frames him for stealing a watch from his girlfriend's father.

Fortunately, the situation mirrors the plot of the movie currently playing at Buster's theater. Inspired by the film, can Buster find the real thief and win back his girl?

Both films focus on exploring the potentials of the motion picture, then a brand-new medium.

In 'The Cameraman,' Keaton uses the movie business itself to create comedy that plays with the nature of film and reality.

"These films are audience favorites, and people continue to be surprised at how engrossing and exhilarating they can be when shown as they were intended: in a theater, and with live music," said accompanist Jeff Rapsis, who performs at more than 100 screenings each year at venues around the nation and abroad.

Rapsis, who lives in Bedford, N.H., improvises live scores for silent films using a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra.

"It's kind of a high wire act," Rapsis said. "But for me, the energy of live performance is an essential part of the silent film experience."

'The Cameraman' was originally scheduled to be shown at the Town Hall Theatre on Sunday, May 21, but was moved to Sunday, April 30 due to a scheduling conflict.

Upcoming films in the series include:

• Sunday, May 14, 2023 at 2 p.m.: 'The Docks of New York' (1928). Set in late 19th century New York, roughneck stoker Bill Roberts gets into unexpected trouble during a brief shore leave when he falls hard for Mae, a wise and weary dance-hall girl. Intense and moving silent drama from legendary director Josef von Sternberg.

• Sunday, May 28, 2023 at 2 p.m.: 'Speedy' (1928) starring Harold Lloyd. Lloyd's final silent feature finds him at the peak of his career playing a baseball-crazed go-getter forced to rescue the business of his girlfriend's father from being destroyed by thugs. Filled with great scenes of 1920s NYC, with notable cameo by baseball's Babe Ruth. ('Speedy' was originally scheduled for Sunday, April 30 but was moved to Sunday, May 28 due to a scheduling conflict.)

'The Cameraman' (1928), preceded by 'Sherlock Jr.' (1924), will be screened on Sunday, April 30 at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H.

Admission is free; a donation of $10 per person is suggested to help defray expenses. For more information, call (603) 654-3456.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Thou shalt not miss 'The Ten Commandments' on Wednesday, April 12 in Plymouth, N.H.

Has this Easter season left you feeling like those chocolate bunnies—kind of hollow?

What you may need to give your life meaning and purpose is a dose of old-time religious morality.

Either that, or a stiff drink and an affair with an exotic woman whose name contains more vowels than consonants.

Well, if it's the former, then one way to get yourself some old-time moralism, and without any long-term commitments, is to take in the original silent film version of 'The Ten Commandments' (1923).

I'll accompany this picture, which is celebrating its centenerary, on Wednesday, April 12 at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Pefrformance Center in Plymouth, N.H.

Showtime is 6:30 p.m.  Lots more information in the press release pasted in below.

And as for the drink/affair option, other than observing that such a course also involves no long-term commitment, you're on your own.

Except if you come to see the film, you might try just reversing several of the commandments and see if that doesn't spice up things a little...

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Take two tablets...Theodore Roberts as Moses in the original silent 'The Ten Commandments' (1923).

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Original 'Ten Commandments' movie to screen at Flying Monkey Moviehouse

Silent film Biblical blockbuster to be shown on 100th anniversary with live music on Wednesday, April 12

PLYMOUTH, N.H.—Decades before he directed Charlton Heston as Moses, filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille's original silent version of 'The Ten Commandments' (1923) wowed audiences the world over during the early years of cinema.

To celebrate the Easter season, DeMille's pioneering Biblical blockbuster will be screened on Wednesday, April 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 Main St., Plymouth, N.H.

The 100th anniversary screening, the latest in the Flying Monkey'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. Tickets are available online at or at the door.

DeMille's original 'Ten Commandments' was among the first Hollywood films to tackle stories from scripture on a grand scale. The picture was a popular hit in its original release, and served as a blueprint for DeMille's later remake in 1956.

Despite the silent original's epic scale, the Moses story takes up only about the first third of the film. After that, the tale changes to a modern-day melodrama about living by the lessons of the Commandments. 

In the McTavish family, two brothers make opposite decisions: one, John, to follow his mother's teaching of the Ten Commandments and become a poor carpenter, and the other, Danny, to break every one of them and rise to the top. The film shows his unchecked immorality to be momentarily gainful, but ultimately disastrous.

A contrast is made between the carpenter brother and his mother. The mother reads the story of Moses and emphasizes strict obedience and fear of God. The carpenter, however, reads from the New Testament story of Jesus' healing of lepers. His emphasis is on a loving and forgiving God. The film also shows the mother's strict lawful morality to be flawed in comparison to her son's version.

The other brother becomes a corrupt contractor who builds a church with shoddy concrete, pocketing the money saved and becoming very rich. One day, his mother comes to visit him at his work site, but the walls are becoming unstable due to the shaking of heavy trucks on nearby roads. One of the walls collapses, with tragic results. This sends the brother on a downward spiral as he attempts to right his wrongs and clear his conscience.

Throughout the film, the visual motif of the tablets of the Commandments appears in the sets, with a particular Commandment appearing on them when it is relevant to the story.

'The Ten Commandments' boasts an all-star cast of 1920s performers, including Theodore Roberts as Moses; Charles de Rochefort as Rameses; Estelle Taylor as Miriam, the Sister of Moses; Edythe Chapman as Mrs. Martha McTavish; Richard Dix as John McTavish, her son; Rod La Rocque as Dan McTavish, her other son; and Leatrice Joy as Mary Leigh.

The Exodus scenes were filmed at Nipomo Dunes, near Pismo Beach, Calif., in San Luis Obispo County, which is now an archaeological site. The film location was originally chosen because its immense sand dunes provided a superficial resemblance to the Egyptian desert. 

 After the filming was complete, the massive sets—which included four 35-foot-tall Pharaoh statues, 21 sphinxes, and gates reaching a height of 110 feet, which were built by an army of 1,600 workers — were dynamited and buried in the sand. 

However, the burial location at Nipomo Dunes is exposed to relentless northwesterly gales year-round, and much of what was buried is now exposed to the elements, as the covering sand has been blown away.

The visual effect of keeping the walls of water apart while Moses and the Israelites walked through the Red Sea was accomplished with a slab of gelatin that was sliced in two and filmed close up as it jiggled. This shot was then combined with live-action footage of actors walking into the distance, creating a vivid illusion.

Live music is a key element of each silent film screening, said Jeff Rapsis, accompanist for the Flying Monkey's silent film screenings. Silent movies were not shown in silence, but were accompanied by live music made right in each theater. Most films were not released with official scores, so it was up to local musicians to provide the soundtrack, which could vary greatly from theater to theater.

"Because there's no set soundtrack for most silent films, musicians are free to create new music as they see fit, even today," Rapsis said. "In bringing a film to life, I try to create original 'movie score' music that sounds like what you might expect in a theater today, which helps bridge the gap between today's audiences and silent films that are in some cases more than 100 years old."

‘The Ten Commandments’ (1923) will be shown with live music by Jeff Rapsis on Wednesday, April 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 Main St., Plymouth, N.H.

Admission is $10 per person. Tickets are available online at or at the door. For more info, call (603) 536-255.

For more info about the music, visit

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

The future is now, or actually tomorrow: 'Metropolis' (1927) to screen on Wednesday, April 5 at Rex Theatre in Manchester, N.H.

A scene from Fritz Lang's futuristic classic 'Metropolis' (1927).

Time for some backwards-to-the-future time travel, courtesy a screening of 'Metropolis' (1927) on Wednesday, April 5 at 7 p.m. at the Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester, N.H.

Lots more info in the press release pasted in below. Hope to see everyone in the future, meaning tomorrow night at 7 p.m.

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An original poster for 'Metropolis' (1927).

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

Restored classic sci-fi epic 'Metropolis' to screen at Rex Theatre on Wednesday, April 5

Landmark early futuristic fantasy to be shown with live music; includes nearly half-hour of rediscovered footage

MANCHESTER, N.H.—A silent film hailed as the grandfather of all science fiction fantasy movies will be screened with live music in Manchester next month.

'Metropolis' (1927), an epic adventure set in a futuristic world, will be shown on Wednesday, April 5 at 7 p.m. at the Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester, N.H.

The screening will feature live accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer who specializes in creating music for silent films.

Tickets are $10 per person general admission, and 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 Rex Theatre aims to show silent movies as they were meant to be seen—in high quality prints, on the big 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."

From 'Metropolis' (1927).

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 Rex 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.

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 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 Rex 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.

The restored 'Metropolis' will be shown on Wednesday, April 5 at 7 p.m. at the Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester, N.H. Tickets are $10 per person general admission. Tickets available online at or at the door. For more info, call the box office at (603) 668-5588.


“'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,