Monday, October 30, 2023

Tonight in Jaffrey, N.H.: Classic 'Dracula' (1931) with Bela Lugosi, live musical underscoring

A poster promoting the original release of 'Dracula' (1931).

And now for something completely different!

As the final installment this year's marathon of Halloween screenings, I'll do live music for 'Dracula' (1931) at the Park Theatre tonight (Monday, Oct. 30) at 7 p.m. at the Park Theatre, 19 Main St., in Jaffrey, N.H.

Wait? Isn't 'Dracula' one of them new-fangled talking pictures? 

Yes it is—which is why what I'll be doing is something completely different, at least for me.

Come join us! Lots more info and details in the press release pasted in below. 

For now, let me say that it's been a fun year for Halloween screenings, with a good mix of the big three with lesser known titles.

The big three: ''Phantom of the Opera' (1925); 'Hunchback of Notre Dame' (1923); and 'Nosferatu' (1922). I accompanied each twice in the past three weeks!

As for the lesser known films, this year marked my first encounter with 'The Magician' (1926), directed by Rex Ingram and based on a William Somerset Maugham tale.

I wasn't aware of this film until recently, and accompanied it yesterday afternoon for the first time at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H., and wow! 

Starring Paul Wegener (of 'Der Golem' fame) and Alice Terry, the film makes for quite the Halloween creepfest. Elaborate visions of the underworld, plus the sight of Terry tied to a table as Wegener prepares to "operate," are just a few highlights of this disturbing picture.

I look forward to putting it in the rotation for future Halloweens!

Also, last night saw me do music for 'Nosferatu' (1922) at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine.

The final screening of the Leavitt's 2023 season, it took place while the Leavitt still pretty much set up for the theater's annual 'Haunted House' promotion.

So the seats were filled with "guests" such as this:

My, they make for a handsome couple, don't they?

Well, I hope they (and you) can join us this evening for Tod Browning's 'Dracula' (1931) with live music. Press release is below...

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Bela Lugosi stalks a victim in 'Dracula' (1931).
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Halloween special: Lugosi's 'Dracula' on big screen with new live score

Horror classic to be shown at Park Theatre in Jaffrey, N.H. on Monday, Oct. 30 for one screening only

JAFFREY, N.H. — Do you dare spend Halloween braving 'Dracula' on the big screen?

That's the question at the Park Theatre, where the classic 1931 version of 'Dracula' starring Bela Lugosi will run for one showing only on Monday, Oct. 30.

Showtime is 7 p.m. at the Park Theatre, located at 19 Main St., Jaffrey, N.H. 

 General admission tickets are $10. Tickets are available online at or at the box office.

The screening will feature live music by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire musician who specializes in creating live musical accompaniment for silent film screenings.

Although 'Dracula' is a talking picture, it was released with virtually no musical score, a common practice during the transition period from silent to sound pictures.

Rapsis will perform original music live during the screening using a digital keyboard to recreate the texture of a full orchestra.

Directed by Tod Browning, 'Dracula' was a sensational box office success and has mesmerized movie audiences ever since with its eerie visuals and Lugosi's iconic performance.

The story opens in far-off Transylvania, where mysterious Count Dracula hypnotizes a British soldier, Renfield (Dwight Frye), into becoming his mindless slave.

Dracula then travels to England and takes up residence in an old castle. Soon the Count begins to wreak havoc, sucking the blood of young women and turning them into vampires.

When he sets his sights on Mina (Helen Chandler), the daughter of a prominent doctor, vampire-hunter Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) is enlisted to put a stop to Dracula's never-ending bloodlust.

'Dracula' was released when Hollywood and movie theatres were still undergoing the transition from the silent era to pictures with synchronized sound and dialogue.

During the silent era, studios did not produce official scores for most films. Instead, accompaniment was left up to local musicians, and could vary greatly from one moviehouse to another.

When studios converted to talking pictures, the tradition of recording a musical score was not well established. In the case of 'Dracula,' Universal omitted music in part to save production costs.

As a result, after the opening credits, the 1931 'Dracula' contains no music except for a brief scene in an opera house.

In recent decades, composers have experimented with creating original music for the movie—most notably Philip Glass, who composed a score in 1998 for the Kronos string quartet.

Rapsis sees 'Dracula' as closely linked to the silent-era tradition of films shown with live music.

"Tod Browning was a prolific director of silent films, including many thrillers that anticipate 'Dracula,' " Rapsis said. "So even though 'Dracula' is a talking picture, Browning's filmmaking style is strongly rooted in the silent era, when it was assumed that local musicians would be important collaborators in a picture's effect on an audience."

Unlike the Glass score, which plays almost continuously during the movie, Rapsis will use music only in certain places where he feels it will either enhance the mood, heighten tension, or signify a change in the emotional line of the story.

In the catacombs under Carfax Abbey. Hey, maybe we should have gotten the film sponsored by Carfax.

Although 'Dracula' is not a silent film, there are definitely places where the silence speaks volumes and remains very effective," Rapsis said. "I hope to leave those intact, but enrich other parts of the film in the way that only music can."

Rapsis works largely by improvising as a film plays in the theater, in the tradition of theater organists of the 1920s.

"There's something very special about the in-the-moment energy of a live improvised performance," Rapsis said. "It's never the same, and at its best it really can help a film connect with an audience and make the whole experience come together."

The original 'Dracula' (1931) starring Bela Lugosi will be shown with live music for one screening only on Monday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. at the Park Theatre, 19 Main St., Jaffrey, N.H.

Tickets are $10 per person. For more info, call the theater at (603) 532-9300 or visit

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