Memphis musicians to play along with scary silent movies at Crosstown


Memphis musicians will present reside accompaniment to scary silent motion pictures because the Crosstown Theater this week launches its most formidable movie program to this point — a countdown-to-Halloween sequence of cinema classics that may match visions of ghosts, witches and Lon Chaney in a costume with electrical guitar, classical piano and rattling percussion.

In keeping with organizers and individuals, the intention is to evoke the times of silent cinema — when musicians routinely performed in film theaters — however with a Memphis vibe. Count on to listen to the genre-defying experimentation and improvisation that characterizes Memphis musicians, whether or not they’re deciphering the blues, the Beatles or — within the case of “The Unholy Three,” which screens Thursday at Crosstown — a film sequence wherein an escaped ape assaults a jewel thief.

The musicians recruited for the sequence sound impressed.

“Among the finest movie-going experiences I ever had in my life was the Alloy Orchestra  doing ‘Metropolis’ — unimaginable,” stated Chris McCoy, whose punk-goth band 1000 Lights will carry out Oct. 24 alongside the 1922 masterpiece “Häxan,” as soon as infamous for its documentary-like depiction of satan worship and witchcraft rites (the solid listing contains the position of “Flagellating Nun,” and director Benjamin Christensen himself pops up as a waggle-tongued Devil). “So I hope we are able to do one thing that impacts individuals even half as a lot as that affected me.”

McCoy is referring to a 2012 Malco Paradiso screening of Fritz Lang’s silent science-fiction masterpiece “Metropolis” that was accompanied by a reside efficiency by the Massachusetts-based Alloy Orchestra, a touring ensemble that creates unique scores for pre-sound motion pictures. 

In truth, the Alloy Orchestra carried out six instances in Memphis, from 2006 to 2014, typically to packed homes. The Crosstown sequence — with screenings on Oct. 10, Oct. 17 and Oct. 24 — brings an overdue native spin to the idea.

“We wished to get native musicians for these screenings,” stated Courtney Fly, co-film programmer for Crosstown Arts, which in Could inaugurated a weekly sequence dedicated to artwork and basic movies on the Crosstown Theater at Crosstown Concourse. “For ‘The Phantom Carriage,’ which is a ghost story, we thought piano could be good, however for ‘Häxan,’ the one with witches and demonology, we thought we may get somewhat louder, somewhat bit extra rock-and-roll.”

“The Unholy Three” will likely be accompanied by the Blueshift Ensemble, which makes a speciality of “modern classical” chamber music.

“It is a very placing movie,” stated Blueshift co-founder and Memphis Symphony Orchestra cellist Jonathan Kirkscey, a composer whose credits include the score for the popular “Mr. Rogers” documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” 

“It is simple to get impressed by that movie,” stated Kirkscey. “It is wild.”

Wild is true. Directed by Tod Browning, a specialist within the macabre whose credit embrace “Dracula” (1931) with Bela Lugosi and the notorious “Freaks” (1932), “The Unholy Three” stars silent cinema’s “Man of a Thousand Faces,” Lon Chaney, as Echo, a carnival ventriloquist who recruits two co-workers, a dwarf named Tweedledee (Harry Earles) and a strongman, Hercules (Victor McLaglen), for a criminal offense spree. For canopy, Echo attire as a kindly outdated lady, who pushes Tweedledee, disguised as a child, in a carriage. Echo additionally has an ill-tempered pet ape who, after all, will get unfastened within the closing reel.

Kirskscey stated the Blueshift Ensemble — which ought to quantity about six musicians for the occasion — will present “structured improvisation” for “The Unholy Three,” much like the efficiency model they delivered to the Crosstown Theater in Could for his or her “Memphis Bi-centennial Boogie” efficiency, wherein they accompanied a feature-length montage of silent information footage from Memphis historical past. 

In the meantime, McCoy stated his band — which incorporates Russ Thompson on drums, Jesse James Davis on synthesizer and Joey Killingsworth on “every little thing” — will “pull alternatives from our unique musical, and likewise so some soundscapes and improv.”

A filmmaker who is also movie critic for the Memphis Flyer, McCoy stated he’ll borrow some inspiration from Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin, the Italian band that just lately made its Memphis debut at Black Lodge, performing alternatives from Goblin’s basic and sometimes noisy soundtracks for such movies as “Suspiria” and “Daybreak of the Useless.” Getting ready for “Häxan,” he stated, “was the primary cause I wished to go to that present.”

Along with reside music, every silent movie will likely be accompanied by a second characteristic: The screenings are, in actual fact, double options, with a basic sound thriller to observe the silent film.

Exhibits begin at 7:30 p.m. This is the schedule:

  • Oct. 10: Director Tod Browning’s “The Unholy Three” (1925) with Lon Chaney, accompanied by Blueshift Ensemble, adopted by “The Night time of the Hunter” (1955), director Charles Laughton’s masterpiece starring Robert Mitchum as a murderous preacher with “L-O-V-E” and “H-A-T-E” tattooed on the fingers of his fingers.
  • Oct. 17: Swedish director Victor Sjöström’s “The Phantom Carriage” (1921), a special-effects-filled fantasy a few man who experiences a Scrooge-like visitation from a ghost. The musical accompaniment will likely be offered by pianist Maeve Brophy. The second characteristic is director Invoice Gunn’s “Ganja & Hess” (1973), a milestone in low-budget horror and black unbiased cinema, wherein Duane Jones (star of “Night time of the Residing Useless”) performs an anthropologist contaminated with vampirism.
  • Oct. 24: Director Benjamin Christensen’s “Häxan” (1922), also referred to as “Witchcraft By means of the Ages,” accompanied by 1000 Lights. The second characteristic is Dario Argento’s fashionable shocker, “Deep Crimson” (1975), also referred to as “The Hatchet Murders.”

Admission is $10 per night time. For extra data, go to

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