Almost 100 years later, the Rialto Theater on Park Ave. is giving Montrealers a taste of cinematic past. And just in time for Halloween it seems. The Film Society has been on a roll, and is having a very busy month; only a couple nights ago they showed a rare 16mm print of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds at Blue Sunshine, and are gearing up for an epic night of classics this Sunday, October 17th.
The Rialto Theater itself has a long epic history. One of Montreal's oldest cinemas, it was constructed in the early 20s, at the dawn of cinematic entertainment, just in time for the golden era of silent pictures, and the rise of sound pictures. With its classic marquee looming over Park Ave., the Rialto has operated as a full-time cinema until the late 80s, and suffered a tumultuous last 20 years. Of its many incarnations, it has been a club, a music venue, retried to be a rep movie theater showing classics, and now operates mostly as a steakhouse. Nevertheless, the big screen still lights up once in a while for special events, as part of Film Festivals, and hosts every year one of the biggest Rocky Horror Picture Show events in Canada.
This Sunday we will witness a historic event: the Rialto is almost 90 years old, and starting at 7pm, there will be a presentation of a double-feature of horror classics, two silent German expressionist epics as old as the theater itself: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu. The originals, no remakes or anything. The only thing to make this more celebratory is to come celebrate your 90th birthday with us. As if the atmosphere at the Rialto is not enough, the event will use genuine projectors, (no DVD screenings), and live music accompaniment.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a highly original tale of hypnotism and terror like nobody had ever witnessed at that time. Directed by Robert Weine, the story follows a groups of youth who stumble upon a creppy carnival where a creepy old man has a creepy somnambulist (played by the great Conrad Veidt) who does his bidding. Is he a zombie? Is he a monster? Is he wearing too much makeup? Who cares. This movie is so much fun and is such a surprise coming out of 1920, that seems so fresh today, especially the crazy surprise twist ending that is way ahead of its time.
Nosferatu (1922) probably deserves even less introduction. Probably the most famous silent film icon, Max Schrek's version of Dracula was so terrifying and realistic that rumours stated he was actually a vampire (see the great Shadow of the Vampire (2000) with John Malkovich for that backstory). Not being able to acquire the film rights for the actual Dracula story, they famously changed the characters' names and created a brilliant and shocking classic to rival anything Hollywood made for decades to come. Director F. W. Murnau is still considered the greatest silent film director, probably only rivaled by DeMille and Eisenstein.
Doors open at 6pm, and drinks and finger food will be available as well. Apparently there will be more double-features to come, so keep your eyes peeled and keep those cameras rolling.