Brandon Town Hall to screen ‘Nosferatu’ on Oct. 22

SILENT FILM ACCOMPANIST Jeff Rapsis will create live music for the silent horror classic Nosferatu.

BRANDON — Get into the Halloween spirit with a classic silent horror film celebrating the 100th anniversary of its release. Nosferatu (1922), the first screen adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, will be shown with live music on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, 1 Conant Square, Route 7 in Brandon. Admission is free, and donations are welcome to help support ongoing Town Hall renovation efforts.

The screening will feature live accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer who specializes in creating music for silent cinema.

Nosferatu (1922), directed by German filmmaker F.W. Murnau, remains a landmark of the cinematic horror genre. It was among the first movies to use visual design to convey unease and terror.

The passage of time has made this unusual film seem even more strange and otherworldly to modern viewers. It’s an atmosphere that silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis will enhance by improvising live music on the spot for the screening.


“The original Nosferatu is a film that seems to get creepier as more time goes by,” said Rapsis, a resident of Bedford, N.H., who accompanies silent film screenings at venues across the nation. “It’s a great way to celebrate Halloween and the power of silent film to transport audiences to strange and unusual places.”

In Nosferatu, actor Max Schreck portrays the title character, a mysterious count from Transylvania who travels to the German city of Bremen to take up residence.

In the town, a rise in deaths from the plague is attributed to the count’s arrival. Only when a young woman reads “The Book of Vampires” does it become clear how to rid the town of this frightening menace.

Director Murnau told the story with strange camera angles, weird lighting, and special effects, including sequences that were deliberately sped up.

Although Nosferatu is suitable for all family members, the overall program may be too intense for very young children to enjoy.

Modern critics say the original Nosferatu still packs a powerful cinematic punch.“[The] early film version of Dracula is brilliantly eerie, full of imaginative touches that none of the later films quite recaptured,” Leonard Maltin wrote recently.

Critic Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader called Nosferatu “…a masterpiece of German silent cinema and easily the most effective version of Dracula on record.”

Despite the status of Nosferatu as a landmark of early cinema, another scary aspect of the film is that it was almost lost forever.

The film—shot in 1921 and released in 1922—was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel, with names and other details changed because the studio could not obtain rights to the book. Thus “vampire” became “Nosferatu,” and “Count Dracula” became “Count Orlok.” 

After the film was released, Stoker’s widow filed a copyright infringement lawsuit and won—all known prints and negatives were destroyed under the terms of the settlement.

However, intact copies of the film would surface later, allowing Nosferatu to be restored and screened today as audiences originally saw it. 

The image of actor Max Schreck as the vampire has become so well known that it appeared in a recent Sponge Bob Squarepants episode.

In screening silent films at Brandon Town Hall, organizers aim to show early cinema as it was meant to be seen—in restored prints, on a large screen, with live music, and with an audience.

“All those elements are important parts of the silent film experience,” said Rapsis, who will accompany the film. “Recreate those conditions, and classics of early cinema such as Nosferatu leap back to life in ways that audiences still find entertaining.”

Rapsis performs on a digital synthesizer that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra, creating a traditional “movie score” sound. He improvises the complete score in real-time during the screening.

“Creating a movie score on the fly is kind of a high-wire act, but it can often make for more excitement than if everything is planned out in advance,” Rapsis said.
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