Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Silent movie fans, unite!

One of the most spellbinding, eeriest, and earliest proto-horror films ever, The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, is coming to town this week. Here's your chance to see it on a big, big screen at the Rio, Friday night, at the kickoff event for New Music Works' 34th season, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: A Live Soundtrack Experience.

Robert Weine's 1919 German Expressionistic masterpiece concerns a demented carnival fortune-teller who keeps a sleepwalking somnambulist in a permanent trance-like state to do his evil bidding. Breathtakingly bizarre visuals include moody chiaroscuro lighting, and menacing forced-perspective interiors and exteriors, which add to the sense of haunting weirdness. 

Conrad Veidt (later to play suave Nazi villains in American films like Casablanca) is strangely poignant as the fragile, reed-thin, hollow-eyed somnambulist, Cesare. Not a monster himself, he's manipulated in monstrous ways by his keeper, sinister Dr. Caligari (the scenery-chewing Werner Krauss).

Still, the shots of Cesare, all in black, creeping like a shadowy spider along the walls of Walter Reimann's surreal dreamscape of a set are among the most indelible images in all of horror cinema. I get chills just thinking about it!

At Friday's event, the 51-minute film is accompanied by an original music score by contemporary Bay Area composer Richard Marriot, performed live by the NMW Ensemble under the baton of Artistic Director Phil Collins.

Also on the bill is Ghosts Before Breakfast, a surreal 1927 short by Dadaist filmmaker/artist Hans Richter, accompanied by the composition "Revenge Before Breakfast" (1982) by Henry Brant, and At Land (1944), an experimental short by Maya Deren, featuring Deren and John Cage, accompanied by the composition "John Cage, 4:33" (1952). The NMW ensemble will also perform Erik Satie's 1920 composition, "Furniture Music." Complete program begins at 8 pm.

If you remember last year's NMW presentation of another silent, classic, Metropolis, as fondly as I do, you know you're in for a treat! Yes, there will be a costume contest Friday night, so dress up as a character from Caligari, or your favorite piece of furniture, to compete for the Best Costume prizes. Click here for ticket info, or visit the NMW website.

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