A Night of Gothic Horror at the Texas Theatre

Posted by    |    October 2nd, 2011 at 5:10 am

The Texas Theatre is hosting a very unique event to get you into the Halloween spirit. They’ll be showing two great silent horror films, “The Cabinet of Dr.
Caligari” (1919) and “Nosferatu” (1922). The films will be accompanied on the piano by Oak Cliff resident Robert Edwards. We spoke with Edwards about the
event:

GOC: So you’re playing for both films in one evening?

RE: Yes, we thought it would be a fantastic double feature to show two of the greatest cinematic examples of German Expressionism, which affected not only cinema but music, architecture, painting,  etc. in Europe at during the first quarter of the 20th century. It’s a style characterized by strange, geometrically absurd sets and symbolic characterization. Odd camera angles and moody lighting effects  are often used. Many times the theme of insanity is present. It’s a perfect genre for horror films, and this style influenced American cinema for the entire 20th century, from Dracula and Frankenstein through “Film Noir” to modern movies like Blade Runner and Edward Scissorhands. I’ll be accompanying both films at the piano, which will be very exciting for me.

GOC: Are these the first horror films ever made?

RE: A 1910 version of Frankenstein was the first film to show a “monster” on screen but it’s only 12 minutes long and of little real cinematic interest. “Caligari” and Nosferatu, on the other hand, were both  firsts in many other ways. For example, “Caligari” is said to contain the very first “twist ending” in a film, and is among the first “flashback” films, which has since become a prevalent feature in many modern  films. Nosferatu was the very first cinematic treatment of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” novel, which of course set a trend for vampire films, TV dramas etc. which continues to this day. However, Nosferatu’s vampire  is still regarded as the creepiest, most sinister-looking “Dracula” ever conceived.

GOC: What kind of music will you play to accompany these films?

RE: While I usually play a mixture of ragtime, 1920’s jazz and humorous sound effects for the silent comedies I play for, I’ll take a completely different approach for these horror films. Since the story of  Nosferatu takes place in Bremen, Germany in 1838, I’m creating a score woven from dark, tragic classical music written around or before that year. All the great composers wrote at least a few really mournful,  eerie pieces that are incredibly well-suited to accompany horror films. I believe they’ll deepen the haunting quality of these morbidly fantastic images.

GOC: Why go see an old horror film when so many new ones are still being made, in color and with state-of-the-art special effects?

RE: First, they are an intrinsic part of our culture. Though created in Europe, the stories and techniques used have influenced art and cinema throughout the world for almost a century now. They are also  fascinating to watch; the style and cinematography are often startling and completely compelling, even to our jaded 21st century eyes. The stories are every bit as absorbing as they were when new. The fact  they are in black and white, are “silent” and that everyone originally involved in the production is long dead actually adds to the creepiness of these films. And of course, they are not really silent, as you’ll  be hearing some of the greatest and darkest music of the last several centuries along with the images, played live right there on stage. I can’t think of a cooler, spookier way to get in the Halloween spirit!

October 14th, 8:00 pm, The Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson Blvd.