Friday, October 27, 2023

Tonight in Vermont: 'Cat and the Canary,' then 'Nosferatu' and 'The Magician' on Sunday, Oct. 29

Outside the Jane Pickens Theatre last night in Newport, R.I.

As Halloween approaches, the silent film screenings build up to a fever pitch.

Next up: Tonight (Friday, Oct. 27), it's 'The Cat and the Canary' (1927) in Brandon, Vt. More details are in the press release pasted in below.

Last night, it was 'The Phantom of the Opera' (1925) in Newport, R.I. About 120 people piled into the Jane Pickens Theater to experience this classic. 

I got a big laugh when I introduced myself, saying: "If any of you have come here tonight to experience the soaring, passionate melodies of Andrew Lloyd Webber's magnificent score, I'm afraid you're going to be sadly disappointed."

One nice surprise was that the theater had actually put my name on the marquee. So I had to take a picture, even if it required me to point my phone directly at a streetlight:

The night before, it was an equally well-attended screening of 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' (1923) in Manchester, N.H.—about 120 people at the Rex Theatre. 

Looking beyond tonight's screening of 'The Cat and the Canary' up in Brandon, Vt., it's a double-header on Sunday, Oct. 29.

At 2 p.m., I'll accompany 'The Magician' (1926) at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H. It's a last-minute addition to their schedule and mine. 

'The Magician' concerns a scientist (Paul Wegener) who uses an ancient spell to reanimate a dead body. The secret missing ingredient is, of course, the blood of a virgin, making it a good bet for Halloween.

A Spanish language poster that captures the flavor of 'The Magician' (1926).

Directed by the great Rex Ingram (who helmed 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' in 1921), 'The Magician' is a film I've never done before and only recently learned about. The theater was kind enough to add it to their schedule, so off we go.

Then on Sunday at 7 p.m., it's 'Nosferatu' (1922) out at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine. And on Monday, Oct. 30 at the Park Theatre in Jaffrey, N.H., it's live underscoring for 'Dracula' (1931), the early talkie starring Bela Lugosi that was released without music. 

And the comes the finish line—Halloween itself!

I get a break for a few days, but then will be at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum out in Fremont, Calif. to sit in as accompanist for another film I've not accompanied before: 'Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman' (1925)

The museum has provided this helpful description and plot summary: 

"RAFFLES, THE AMATEUR CRACKSMAN (USA, 1925)  Raffles, the debonair society burglar, can’t resist a dare, when a noted criminologist claims that he would prevent a threatened theft in the home of an upper crust family. Of course, Raffles gets the pearls, but he promises the beautiful Lady Gwendolyn that he will return them and reform, which he does. With House Peters, Miss Du Pont, Hedda Hopper, Walter Long. Directed by King Baggot. (This is not to be confused with the John Barrymore version (1917), in which the story line is somewhat different.)

This is my first appearance at the Niles museum since they've reopened after the pandemic, so it'll be great to be back. 

And for those of you who, like me, never heard of King Baggot, I'm pleased to report that he had quite a career on stage in his youth and before the camera during the early days of cinema. 

Here's an excerpt of his entry in the always unimpeachable Wikipedia:

"The first individually publicized leading man in America, Baggot was referred to as 'King of the Movies,' 'The Most Photographed Man in the World' and 'The Man Whose Face Is As Familiar As The Man In The Moon.' "

Wow! It'll be an honor to be collaborating with the Man in the Moon.

So if you find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area on Saturday, Nov. 4, drop by for what should be an interesting night at the movies.

And now, here's all the info about tonight's screening of 'The Cat and the Canary' up in Brandon, Vt. Hope you'll join us!

*   *   *

Tully Marshall in an awkward moment in 'The Cat and the Canary' (1927).

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

'Cat and Canary' (1927) to play Brandon Town Hall with live music on Friday, Oct. 27

Just in time for Halloween: Creepy haunted house silent film thriller to be shown after sundown

BRANDON, Vt.—'The Cat and the Canary' (1927), a haunted house thriller from Hollywood’s silent film era, will be screened with live music on Friday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. at the Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Route 7, in Brandon, Vt.

All are welcome to this family-friendly movie. Admission is free, with free will donations accepted in support of ongoing Town Hall renovations.

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.

Please note that this program takes place on a Friday, rather than the usual Saturday night for most Brandon Town Hall silent film programs.

'The Cat and the Canary' stands as the original movie thriller—the first picture to feature the reading of a will in a haunted mansion complete with clutching hands, a masked killer, disappearing bodies, and secret passageways.

Silent film starlet Laura LaPlante leads the cast as a young heiress who must spend the night in the creepy old mansion, which is filled with relatives who all have motives to frighten her out of her wits. Meanwhile, a dangerous escaped lunatic is loose on the grounds. Can she and the others make it through the night?

Created for Universal Pictures by German filmmaker Paul Leni and based on a hit stage play, 'The Cat and the Canary' proved popular enough to inspire several remakes, including one starring Bob Hope. It was also the forerunner of all the great Universal horror classics of the 1930s and '40s.

The Brandon Town Hall screening will use a fully restored print that shows the film as audiences would have originally experienced it. 'The Cat and the Canary' will be accompanied by live music by New Hampshire composer Jeff Rapsis, who specializes in silent film scoring.

Rapsis will improvise the score on the spot during the screening.

"Silent film is all about the audience experience, and this one is a perfect Halloween crowd-pleaser," Rapsis said. "It has something for everyone—spooky scenes, some good comedy, and it's all fine for the whole family."

Critics praise the original 'Cat and the Canary' for its wild visual design and cutting edge cinematography.

Film reviewer Michael Phillips singled out the film for using "a fluidly moving camera and elaborate, expressionist sets and lighting to achieve some of the most memorable shots in silent film, from the amazing tracking shots down the curtain-lined main hallway to the dramatic zooms and pans that accompany the film's shocks."

Laura LaPlante in 'The Cat and the Canary' (1927). 
Leonard Maltin called the original 'Cat and the Canary' a "delightful silent classic, the forerunner of all "old dark house" mysteries."

The Brandon Town Hall screening of 'The Cat and the Canary' is sponsored by Pam and Steve Douglass.

Upcoming programs in the Brandon Town Hall's silent film series include:

• Saturday, Nov. 11, 7 p.m.: 'The Big Parade' (1925) starring John Gilbert. We salute Veterans Day with this sweeping saga about U.S. doughboys signing up and shipping off to France in 1917, where they face experiences that will change their lives forever—if they return. MGM blockbuster directed by King Vidor; one of the biggest box office triumphs of the silent era. Sponsored by Donald and Dolores Furnari; Jeanette Devino; and Lorrie Byrom.

'Cat and the Canary' will be shown on Friday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. at the Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Route 7, in Brandon, Vt.

Admission is free, with free will donations accepted in support of ongoing Town Hall renovations.  For more info, visit


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