Sunday, April 13, 2008

Taking Inventory as of April 13

On Saturday (April 12), SF Jazz presented three silent films with live accompaniment by The Club Foot Orchestra. Club Foot is best known for scoring silent films.

The three films (all silent with intertitles) were:

Sherlock Jr. with Buster Keaton; (1924)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; (1920)
Nosferatu directed by FW Murnau; (1922)

If you are old enough to remember the early-1980's, you have probably seen clips from Nosferatu. The music video for "Under Pressure" by Queen & David Bowie featured a clip of Max Schreck as Nosferatu. That was when MTV played music videos.

Also, there was a movie in 2000 called Shadow of the Vampire with John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe. That was a very entertaining movie. The premise is that Schreck (Dafoe) is an actual vampire playing Nosferatu on the set and only Murnau (Malkovich) is aware of his true nature. Murnau allows it continue because the performance is fabulous.

Having seen Nosferatu, I have to agree that Schreck is amazing. He looks incredibly menacing considering it was made in 1922. He has these long talon-like finger and a mis-shapened head.

Sherlock Jr. was another gem. The special effects and stunts were incredible. Long before The Purple Rose of Cairo, Keaton had a character move from "real life" into the movie. Then there is this still impressive sequence where Keaton moves from one scene to another without the jump cuts being visible. Finally, Keaton performs stunt after stunt including steering a motorcycle while sitting on the handle bars. Apparently, he broke his neck performing one stunt.

As for Dr. Caligari, I'm embarrassed to admit I fell asleep. The story had to do with a somnambulist so it is appropriate that I fell asleep.

All three films were preceded by the same short - Felix the Cat Woos Whoopee; (1928). Felix gets drunk, hallucinates, and has to face his wife at home.

I enjoyed the films (at least while I was awake) but I'm not sure about the Club Foot score. Maybe, I'm stereotyping, but I expect silent films to have period scores - preferably a tinny piano playing uptempo jazz. Club Foot's scores were more contemporary and less derivative.

I also caught two more films in the Dueling Divas series.

Harriet Craig with Joan Crawford; (1950).
Back Street with Susan Hayward; (1961).

You have to wonder what Crawford thought when making Harriet Craig. Harriet was a manipulative, clean freak and purportedly, Christina Crawford left the theater on viewing the film because it hit too close to home. If you can put aside that Crawford's family may have lived through this in real-life, Harriet Craig features a deliciously bitchy performance by Crawford.

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