Brandon to screen silent films from May to October

BRANDON — Classics of the silent film era return to the big screen starting in May at the Brandon Town Hall, which will host another season of vintage cinema with live music in the historic facility.
It’s the fifth year of the town hall’s popular silent film series, which gives residents and visitors a chance to see great movies from the pioneering days of cinema as they were intended to be shown — on the big screen, with an audience, and accompanied by live music.
Screenings are held once a month on Saturday nights starting in May and run through October. Admission is free; donations are encouraged, with proceeds to benefit the town hall’s ongoing restoration.
Live music for each program will be provided by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based performer and composer who specializes in scoring silent films.
“It’s great to be bringing silent film back to the big screen in Brandon for another series,” Rapsis said. “Brandon Town Hall is a wonderful place for these great movies to be seen at their best.”
In accompanying silent films live, Rapsis uses a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra. He improvises the music in real time, as the movie is shown.
First up is a program devoted to iconic screen comic Charlie Chaplin, whose movies rocked theaters with laughter around the world throughout the silent era.
A collection of Chaplin’s best short comedies will be screened on Saturday, May 2, at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall.
“There’s nothing quite like the effect that Chaplin’s films have on audiences,” Rapsis said. “Even today, a century after some of them were released, people of all ages still respond to Chaplin’s timeless blend of grace and farce and slapstick.
“In a world that needs all the laughter it can get, Chaplin’s movies continue to provide it in large quantities,” Rapsis continued.
The Chaplin program is being sponsored by local residents Bill & Kathy Mathis in honor of Maxine Thurston.
Other shows in this year’s Brandon silent film series include:
•  Saturday, June 20, 7 p.m.: “The Lost World” (1925). A British expedition travels to South America in search of prehistoric creatures. The original silent film adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s evolutionary thriller “The Lost World,” the motion picture that first brought dinosaurs to life on the big screen. Companion feature: “The Sign of the Claw” (1926), with dog star Peter the Great. Sponsored by Pam and Steve Douglass.
•  Saturday, July 11, 7 p.m.: “Hands Up!” (1926). We mark the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War with this uproarious Raymond Griffith comedy. A Southern spy must work every angle to prevent a shipment of Western gold from reaching Union forces. Also: silent comedy short films starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Sponsored by Bill & Kathy Mathis in honor of Maxine Thurston.
•  Saturday, Aug. 15, 7 p.m.: “Three Ages” (1923). Keaton’s first feature-length comedy interweaves tales of romance from three epochs: the Stone Age, the Roman Empire, and “modern times,” meaning 1920s California. See why Keaton is regarded as one of the great clowns of the silent era. Also: selected comedy short subjects. Sponsored by Amy Menard, Steve Dombrowski and Lake Sunapee Bank.
•  Saturday, Sept. 12, 7 p.m.: “Tarzan and the Golden Lion” (1927). You won’t hear his iconic yell, but everything else about the Tarzan legend is present in this rip-roaring action adventure that plays like an early version of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Companion feature: “The Devil Horse” (1926) starring Rex the Wonder Horse. Sponsored by Tracey Holden and Kirk Thomas.
•  Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m.: Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Lodger” (1927). The annual “Chiller Theater” presentation in the as-yet-unheated Brandon Town Hall. Just in time for Halloween — in “The Lodger,” the search is on for the man responsible for a series of murders in fog-shrouded London. Legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock’s career began in the silent era, when the young director first produced his brand of darkly suspenseful thrillers. Sponsored by Gary and Nancy Meffe.
Rapsis said right now it’s a golden age for silent film because so many titles have been restored, and are now available to watch at home or via online streaming.
However, the Brandon series enables film fans to really understand the power of early cinema, which was intended to be shown a certain way—on a big screen, with live music, and with an audience.
“Put those elements together like we do in Brandon, and films from the silent era spring right back to life in a way that helps you understand why people first fell in love with the movies,” Rapsis said.
For more information on the summer silent film series, visit www.brandontownhall.org. For more info on the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.

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