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Please welcome Abby to the esteemed BYT editorial team, for her first assignment she tears a new one in a sacred Hollywood masterpiece.  Totally awesome. -cale

To get in the Halloween spirit (gah!), I went to a special screening of the 1922 silent film Nosferatu with live musical accompaniment at the AFI in Silver Spring on Friday. Now, I’m skeptical of movies you read, but smart people say it’s a classic, the original vampire movie. And it continues to wet the beds of Montessori-schooled this American life listeners to this day, so I figured I’d check it out.

According to a librarian/archivist friend, the first film with concurrent picture and sound was The Jazz Singer from the late ’20s (a stunning artifact of early American racism with Al Jolsen in blackface throughout). My only experience with silent film to date was watching Birth of a Nation for a 20th century American history class in college, which I don’t remember having an opinion about except that it too was hella racist and people make funny faces when you can’t hear them. The point is I know nothing about pretty much everything and less about film, but I do know what I like. And I like Irish carbombs.


So despite the prospect of live accompaniment (in my mind, a yellow-eyed hunchback furiously clawing away at an organ), I wasn’t invested all that deeply in the venture, but more so looking forward to the post-show jukebox and old bay tots at Quarry House. I had, however, brought my camera to document any enthusiasts who might show up dressed as vampires or ghosts or wookies. Since of course its only ironically uncool to go see a silent film if you make fun of the other mouthbreathers who go see silent films. I arrived a bit early, stood under the marquee while the sky pissed itself, and scanned the crowds as I waited for my friends.

“But there were no pics, no costumed freaks really, unless you count the pleated khaki, sweater vest, orthopedic loafer with arch support set.”

The live accompaniment turned out to be Casio and xylophone with other strange timpani that gave it a vaguely Yanni vibe. The dialogue cards were pretty laughable as well, with exclamations like ‘the phantoms, they come! I must away to Count Orlok’s castle, posthaste!’ (which made me think of this old episode of blind date where the couple goes belly dancing and the woman comes out in a French-cut bikini and starts writhing along the floor screaming ‘I siiiiip from the cup of raaaaptuuure!’) Then at the climactic scene, as the vampire looks up from suckling the neck of the woman pure of heart to the rising sun and his doom, the orchestra busted out with what sounded like the opening bars of ‘all my life’ by KC and Jojo. Afterward we went to Quarry House and ate chicken deep fried in Newcastle and my arteries finally hardened to a close.

Here on out I think ima stick with the talkies.