Grandaughter Gwen and I went to the Saturday, October 27, evening double feature showing Frankenstein (1931) and Dracula (1931). Gwen is such a good influence on her grandmother: I had never seen either one. While I have always encouraged her to “try something new”, she has broadened my horizons, too.
To my mind, Frankenstein’s monster was more to be pitied that censured; even though I lost count of the deaths he caused by the time it was over. Dracula, on the other hand, had no redeeming features. Gwen is more well-read on the subject than I, having all versions of both stories, both cinematic and various books on the subject at her disposal and she was kinder in her assessment of Dracula. So many young people today have gone crazy (there is no other word for the obsession) over the Twilight movies and books, I am thankful, but not too surprised, that Gwen has explored many aspects of horror. It’s a big leap from Disney to Dracula, but at least it’s not Twilight.
Sunday afternoon, the 28th, we saw The Phantom of the Opera (1927). It was my first time to see this one, too. The Alabama Theater was almost full of fans of the movie and fans of the Mighty Wurlitzer. This was the 36th annual showing of The Phantom at the Alabama Theater. It is sponsored by the American Theater Organ Society, and proceeds from the movie (it cost more admission than usual) go to the preservation and upkeep of the Alabama’s theatrical organ.
The ATOS is such an enthusiastic group of people that they dress in costume and add a theatrical element to the show. We were amazed to see black crape draped figures bearing candelabras and pallbearers with coffin come silently down the aisle. They mounted the eerily-lit and tombstone-strewn stage and set the coffin down. It opened and the organist in white tie and tails climbed out, to great applause. It was a wonderful before-the-show show.
Organist Tom Helms had the original score that accompanied this silent movie; he made the instrument sing. Themes from “Faust” were an inherent part of the movie. I have never loved organ music before, but this performance made me a believer. For this afternoon’s presentation, the music, as performed by Mr. Helms on the Mighty Wurlitzer, the Alabama Theater, was the undisputed star.
This console, with four manual keyboards and a pedal keyboard, 285 stop tabs and 85 pistons, is used by the organist to play the 29 ranks (2117 pipes plus percussion) of the Alabama Theatre’s Wurlitzer Pipe Organ. (Picture and specifications courtesy of ATOS.)