October 27, 2011

From the Editor: Horrors! Two silent classics headed to Maine screens

By ROD HARMON Deputy Managing Editor

On Friday, local audiences have the chance to view two silent horror film classics the way they were meant to be seen: On the big screen, with live musical accompaniment.

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The Community House in Kennebunkport will present F.W. Murnau's classic take on Dracula, "Nosferatu," at 7 p.m. ($5; rivertreearts.org). Max Schreck's Count Orlok beats Bela Lugosi's Dracula hands down, and could whip any of the whiny "Twilight" vampires with one flick of his gnarled pinky finger.

At Merrill Auditorium in Portland, the definitive version of "The Phantom of the Opera" starring Lon Chaney will be accompanied by the mighty Kotzschmar organ played by Scott Foppaino. Get there early to watch the Portland Ballet perform "Danse Macabre" before the film. ($18 for adults, free for children under 12; tickets.porttix.com). The thought of seeing the Phantom unmasked while the Kotzschmar blasts "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" sounds worthy of the cost alone.

If you can't make it to either screening, I highly recommend you rent them on DVD, along with these horror classics from the silent era:

"The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923): Along with "Phantom," this film remains Chaney's best-known work, and elevated him from character actor to movie star. Decades before CGI, Chaney transformed himself into the malformed Quasimodo via painful wardrobe and makeup techniques (including putting an eggshell membrane into one eye), and managed to elicit both sympathy and fright with his performance.

"The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1920): Considered one of the first horror movies ever made, this German masterpiece merged surrealism with mystery to create a spooky, dreamlike world that still influences directors to this day. The doctor in question runs a sideshow in which he displays a somnambulist named Cesare to guests. When one of those guests turns up dead, it's suspected that Cesare, under the control of Caligari, is the culprit.

"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1920): Legendary actor John Barrymore launched his film career with his portrayal of the mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll and his evil alter-ego, Mr. Hyde. Barrymore relied more on acting ability than makeup to achieve the transformation from good to evil, and it remains one of the finest screen portrayals to date.

"The Cat and the Canary" (1927): A woman inherits her uncle's haunted castle, which just also happens to be the hiding place for an escapee from an insane asylum. Merging suspense with dark humor, this film touched off Universal's horror-movie heyday and inspired the macabre comedy found in "Bride of Frankenstein," "The Raven" and "The Invisible Man," among others.

Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at:

rharmon@pressherald.com

 

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