Silent Halloween at the Indiana Landmarks Center (2015)

After last year’s festivities, I returned to the beautifully renovated Methodist church to enjoy another night of Halloween entertainment and silent films.

Mark Herman, world-renown organist, was back. He played before and during the films, initially introducing our non-film entertainment for the evening, Sammy Terry.

Sammy Terry? Apparently he is an Indianapolis-area icon, hosting horror films since 1962. Lots of people in the audience seemed to know him from their youths. He emceed the raffles, pulled audience members to the stage for a men-vs.-women trivia contest, and used his guillotine on yet another audience member.

The highlight for me was the silent films. I was treated to a Buster Keaton flick (The Haunted House) that I had never seen. It was great seeing his antics larger than life and to hear audience members who were being introduced to Keaton for the first time laughing at his expressions and pratfalls.

Next up was Lon Chaney’s classic The Phantom of the Opera. Unfamiliar with the tale or the book the movie is based on, the film was a delight to see. On occasions the quirks of exaggerated physical expressions and movement elicited laughter.

I spend another delightful evening at the Indiana Landmark Center celebrating Halloween with others by watching silent classics. What will they play next year?

Movie review: The General (1926)

I first discovered Buster Keaton around a dozen years ago. I quickly devoured all of his silent films that I could find. I recently revisited The General.

Buster Keaton was one of the masters of the silent film genre. He is known for the physical feats in his films, which inspired Jackie Chan decades later.

In The General, Keaton shows off some of his physical prowess but not to the extent that he does in his other films. His use of physical expressions to tell the story speaks to his position among the greats of the silent genre.

The movie utilizes what became a well-worn movie theme: boy loves girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl. Keaton plays a train engineer in lover with his train (The General) and a woman. The story begins at the start of the Civil War and every man is signing up. Keaton’s beloved refuses to talk to him until he is in uniform. Only he can’t seem to get in uniform. The recruiters refuse to recruit him: he is more valuable to the cause as a train engineer.

Through twists and turns and several train chases, Keaton manages to learn about and then foil Northern plans of attacking the South. In the end he saves the day, joins the army, and wins the girl. The General is a good intro to Buster Keaton and his silent films.