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October 29, 1997 - Image 18

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1997-10-29

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6B -The M higai Daily Weeken agie - Thursday, October 30,1997
© FillmFeature


The Mchigan Daiy Weeke Magazil

_ _ _ . _-


I n 1 Y 3 it tI$ Iris

'Nosferatu' mystifies audience with ghoulish soundtrack

Horror-fiction genre terrifies,
enthralls two centuries of readers

By Joshua Pederson
Daily Arts Writer
Each year on Halloween night, the
Michigan Theater presents a showing of
"Nosferatu," the great-great-grandpap-
py of every horror flick out there.
What, you've never heard of it? Well,
if you don't recognize the name, you'd
surely recognize the actor. The vampire
Orlok is played by the immortal Max
Don't recognize the actor? Okay,
now, all of you
have seen
" M u p p e t P RE
Babies," right?
You remember
the vampire in At t
black and white To
that often ter- Live org
rorized Gonzo
and Fozzie? I bet you know what I'm
talking about now,
While "Nosferatu" may, unfortunate-
ly, be best known for its cameos in car-
toons, it is truly the predecessor of the
horror genre. In addition, artistically
and aesthetically, the dark mood that is
created in the filming of "Nosferatu" is
the raw beginning of the film noir
genre. Its dark sets and innovative cam-
era angles are the forerunners of a com-
pletely new and different kind of film-
making that would create such classics
as "Citizen Kane" and "The Maltese
Falcon." From this angle, its importance
in the evolution of film is monumental.
So place yourself back in the roaring
1920s. ' he year is 1922. President
Warren G . ardinL is in office.
Flappers are iapping. uGangsters are

being fitted for cement shoes.
Prohibition is in effect. Times are good.
(Well, the Prohibition thing is a bum-
mer.) The movie industry is in its for-
mative years. But one thing is missing
from the film productions of the era:
And so, you walk into the theater and
sit down. Up from the bowels of the the-
ater rises a dull, golden form. As your
eyes adjust to the darkness; the shape of
a pipe organ materializes. A dark figure

When "Nosferatu" was first released,
the field of film scoring was in its
infancy, undeveloped and unexplored.
Leaffe has chosen to draw upon the the-
atrical music traditions of the '40s and
'50s to create melodic strains that will
be both more sophisticated and more
engaging. It is his opinion that the
music is essential to creating the film's
dark mood.
In order for him to create this
somber mood, it is necessary to utilize

the expansive brilliance of a full
orchestra. But Leaffe has only a single
instrument. Accomplishing the task is
a not only a tribute to Leaffe's talent
but to the quality of the instrument.
"For a small. instrument, the (Michigan
Theater's) organ is very versatile,"
Leaffe said.
Think of the role of music in movies
of today. What would "Jaws" be with-
out its famous bass line? What would
"Psycho" be without its screeching

strings? It is Leaffe's obligation and his
privilege to create the mood on the
spot, and he will not disappoint the
Whether you are going to see
"Nosferatu" for the talent of the artist
who will perform on the organ, the
experience of seeing an integral link in
the development of film as an art form,
or just to be frightened on this most ter-
rifying of evenings, "Nosferatu" will
surely live up to expectations.

he Michigan Theater
morrow at 9:30 p.m.
gan accompaniment.

begins to finger the
keys and eerie strains
of music erupt.
The musical accom-
paniment to
"Nosferatu" is no dig-
al-audio-theater expe-

This is (gasp) a human being with
immense talent playing an authentic
musical instrument. This man is no
phantom inhabiting the building's
underbelly. He is Jim Leaffe, the pro-
fessional organist employed by the
Michigan Theater.
Leaffe got his start in the silent-
movie field in New York and then made
his way to Ann Arbor, where he has
established himself as a fixture on the
organ bench at the Michigan Theater.
One might expect there to be a set
score for a production of "Nosferatu"'s
magnitude, and this would be a correct
assumption Incredibly, though, Mr.
Leaffe has chosen to abandon the origi-
nal score and improvise his own accom-

By Amy Hayes
For the Daily
Skulls explode on a movie screen,
spattering scenery with brains and
blood. A melted man sharpens knives
strapped to his fingers, his gruesome
face illuminated by a growling base-
ment furnace. Maniacal killers slit
throats, throw axes, strangle, mutilate,
slam their victims into trees so hard that
pieces of their faces and eyeballs stick
to the bark. Drawn to these scenes,
moviegoers and bookstore patrons have
come to relish fear.
Why do we like to scare ourselves?
Critics of horror literature and cinema
have postulated that human beings,
unlike animals, know they have to die.
This knowledge is too frightening to
deal with directly, and is thus portrayed
unrealistically in entertainment - vio-
lent deaths, insane murderers and the
walking dead become thrilling, but safe.
With the popularity of pulp novels and
television, the line between real and
unreal has become sharply drawn for
modern audiences.
As horror critic Walter Kendrich
writes in "The Thrill of Fear," "Horror
films and stories are fiction and admit
it; they revel in being made articles,
presenting themselves to an audience
that knows the fact well and is ready to
play the game on those terms. In this
way, the horror of death and dying is
rendered safe; it is turned into a cele-
bration of being permanently alive, for-
ever immune to decay" Addicted to the
excitement of being caught off guard
and realizing the ultimate safety in fic-
tional displays of death, modern society
has turned horror literature into a sig-
htt p://www.pub.
Online by
3 a.m. daily.

nificant genre.
Although horror novels and short sto-
ries were written as early as 1765, the
growth of the genre skyrocketed in the
late 1960s. The first horror novel, "The
Castle of Otranto" (1765) by Horace
Walpole, led to experiments in horror
writing by Ann Radcliffe, Mary
Shelley, John Polidori and Charles
Robert Maturin. The popularity of
Edgar Allen Poe's frightening short sto-
ries encouraged similar efforts by his
contemporaries: Henry James, Edith
Wharton, Rudyard Kipling, Ambrose
Bierce, Guy de Maupassant, Arthur
Machen, Algernon Blackwood and
Oliver Onions.
The publication of Robert Louis
Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1887), Oscar
Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray"
(1891) and Bram Stoker's "Dracula"
(1897) established horror writing as an
art form. H.G. Wells experimented with
"realistic" horror, and H. P. Lovecraft,
known for his macabre short stories in
the pulp magazine "Weird Tales," ven-
tured into the "cosmic" wing of horror
With his horror tales and his treatise
on horror fiction, "Supernatural
Horror in Literature," Lovecraft
inspired many modern horror writers.
The uncanny aspects of his fiction
were employed by writers Roald Dahl
and Robert Bloch, two key figures in
the horror explosion that has influ-
enced today's horror genre.
Lovecraft also inspired television
shows like "The Twilight Zone," whose
stress on irony and otherworldliness can
be found in the movies of Alfred

Hitchcock and the writings of Ray
In the 1960s, horror novels and
movies intertwined. Movie and novel
versions of "Jaws," "Rosemary's Baby,"
"The Exorcist," "Psycho" and "The
Amityville Horror" became wildly pop-
ular. Audiences became more interested
in gore and fast-paced fear, a contrast to
earlier horror fiction that employed old
legends, spiritual entropy and single-
death conclusions.
These stories, as well as the writings
of Peter Straub ("Ghost Story"), Bloch
and Stephen King, form the founda-
tions of current horror. King's work
has been successful from the very
His first novel, "Carrie," portrays
a teen-age girl whose telekinetic
powers run awry when she is humili-
ated at prom. "Christine," a novel
about a possessed car, and "Cujo,"
about a rabid dog, explore the possi-
bilities for terror in everyday life.
"Salem's Lot" and "Cycle of the
Werewolf" re-evaluate the legends of
vampires and werewolves, and
"Misery" and "The Shining" narrate
human madness. These earlier novels
are frightening, creative and more
entertaining than much of King's
later work, such as the epic failure
"Insomnia" or the sado-masochistic
delight "Gerald's Game."
More visionary than King, Clive
Barker has stretched the limits of any
kind of literature with his horrific
"Weaveworld," "Cabel" and "Dam-
nation Game." Barker's complexity
involves the reader tightly with his
work, and his moralizing and descrip-

Author Stephen King, shown here in
tive powers add a depth to his writ
that is absent from other modern hor
VC. Andrews mixes her Freudi
nightmare romances with horror, es
cially in her first novel, "Flowers in
Attic." Describing four children loc
in an attic, tortured by an evil gra
mother who sprinkles arsenic on tl
powdered donuts, Andrews begin:
genre of her own. Soap opera me
graveyard when an incestuous relati
ship begins between the oldest brot
and sister, followed by the death of
youngest brother.
Anne Rice, who may be oust
Stephen King from the horror thrc
has become famous for her lush a


* JogI
." j

TOro uow


"Nosferatu" brings terror and fright, along with live musical accompaniment, to the Michigan Theater tomorrow night.


Weekend Magazine

Moxy Frvus merges
tricate vocal harmonies
'th sly comic plot6lins."
-The New York Times
. an ingratiatingly playfr
-urn... Mrhey] muster rich
vca harmonies and provide
lye ,rhythmically varied
insryental backing, tossing
he occasional accordion
Sand banjiff.
r t People Magazine


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