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Halloween Movies: 'The Man Who Laughs' & 'Eyes Without a Face'

The Man Who Laughs, Conrad Veidt, Mary Philbin
Andrew Simpson at the Wurlitzer
Paul Leni's The Man Who Laughs, starring Conrad Veidt, Mary Philbin (top); Andrew Simpson at the Wurlitzer (bottom)

Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Alida Valli, Pierre Brasseur, Angela Lansbury, Conrad Veidt, Sean Connery, John Wayne, Gene Wilder, silent film stars Mary Philbin and Buster Keaton, and lots of zombies (it's Halloween, after all) are some of the performers featured in the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation's free film series in Culpeper, Va., in October. (See Packard Campus Oct. 2010 Schedule below.)

Among the screening movies are Leo McCarey's comedy My Favorite Wife (1940), Mel Brooks' spoof Young Frankenstein (1974), Raoul Walsh's early epic Western The Big Trail (1930), and George A. Romero's zombie-packed Night of the Living Dead (1968).

My two chief recommendations are:

Georges Franju's eerie Les yeux sans visage / Eyes Without a Face (1960), which long predates The Silence of the Lambs in its tale about young women's skins being used – against their will – for cosmetic purposes. Eyes Without a Face stars Pierre Brasseur as the mad scientist and Alida Valli – looking radically different from her soulful heroines of years past – as the professor's assistant. Haunting music by Maurice Jarre.

Paul Leni's The Man Who Laughs (1928), a late silent based on Victor Hugo's novel about a man whose mouth was ripped into a permanent smile. Conrad Veidt has the title role, Mary Philbin (The Phantom of the Opera) plays the heroine, and Olga Baclanova (Freaks) steals the show as a conniving duchess.

This month's film series will include for the first time a Wurlitzer theater organ to accompany the silent film screenings.

Also of note, on Oct. 1 the Packard Campus showcased a long-thought-lost British television program recently discovered in the Library's collections: Colombe (1960), based on Jean Anouilh's play Mademoiselle Colombe, and starring a pre-James Bond Sean Connery. Apparently there'll be more such screenings in the coming months.

Note: Screenings are preceded by a slide presentation about the film, with music selected by the Library's Recorded Sound Section. Some screenings will also include short subjects before the main feature. Titles are subject to change without notice.

All Packard Campus programs are free and open to the public, but children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult. For reservation information, call (540) 827-1079 extension 79994 or (202) 707-9994 during business hours, beginning one week before any given screening. Reservations will be held until 10 minutes before showtime. For further information on the theater and film series, visit www.loc.gov/avconservation/theater/.

Photo: Courtesy of the Packard Campus.

Packard Campus schedule and film synopses (via press release):

Friday, October 1 (7:30 p.m.)
BBC SUNDAY NIGHT PLAY: COLOMBE(BBC-TV, 1960)
Library of Congress Discovers Lost British TV Treasures
Based on the original Broadway production of the play “Mademoiselle Colombe” by Jean Anouilh.

Directed by Naomi Capon. With Sean Connery & Dorothy Tutin.  Black & White, 102 min.

 

Saturday, October 2 (7:30 p.m.)
SONS OF THE DESERT(Hal Roach-MGM, 1933)
When Stan and Ollie trick their wives into thinking that they are taking a medicinal cruise while they're
actually going to a convention, the wives find out the truth the hard way.

Comedy.  Directed by William A. Seiter.
With Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy and Charley Chase.  Black & White, 68 min.  

Also on the program: Maids ala Mode (Hal Roach, 1933) starring Zasu Pitts and Thelma Todd. Comedy, black & white, 18 min.

 

Thursday, October 14 (7:30 p.m.)
THE BIG TRAIL(Fox, 1930)
Breck Coleman leads hundreds of settlers in covered wagons from the Mississippi River to their destiny out West.

Western adventure. Directed by Raoul Walsh. With John Wayne, Marguerite Churchill and El Brendel. Selected for The National Film Registry in 2006. Black & White, 125 min.

 

Friday, October 15 (7:30 p.m.)
Debut of the Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ
THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (Universal, 1928)
Based on the novel by Victor Hugo. Gwynplaine, son of Lord Clancharlie, has a permanent smile carved
on his face by the King, in revenge for Gwynplaine's father's treachery.

Horror, drama, romance.  Directed by Paul Leni. With Conrad Veidt and Mary Philbin. Black & White, 110 min.  Silent with live musical accompaniment on the Wurlitzer organ by Andrew Simpson.

 

Saturday, October 16 (2:00 p.m.)
Debut of the Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ
SEVEN CHANCES(Metro, 1925)
A man learns he will inherit a fortune if he marries by 7 p.m. Today!

Comedy, romance.  Directed by and starring Buster Keaton. Black & White, 110 min. Silent with live musical accompaniment on the Wurlitzer organ by Andrew Simpson.

Also on the program: Rivals (Arrow, 1925) with Billy West & Oliver Hardy. Comedy, black & white, 20 min.

 

Thursday, October 21 (7:30 p.m.)
MY FAVORITE WIFE(RKO, 1940)
A shipwrecked woman is rescued just in time for her husband's re-marriage. Comedy, romance.  Directed by Garson Kanin.
With Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. Black & white, 88 min. Also on the program: a Warner Bros. cartoon and comedy short from 1940.

 

Friday, October 22 (7:30 p.m.)
EYES WITHOUT A FACE(Lux, 1960)
A surgeon steals young women's faces hoping to heal his daughter's scars. Horror. Intended for mature audiences.
In French with English subtitles. Directed by Georges Franju. With Pierre Brasseur. Black & white, 88 min.

 

Saturday, October 23 (2:00 p.m.)
BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS(Walt Disney, 1971)
An apprentice witch and three war orphans try to prevent the Nazi invasion of England.

Family adventure, fantasy, musical.
Directed by Robert Stevenson. With Angela Lansbury and Roddy McDowell. Color. 117 min. 
 
Thursday, October 28 (7:30 p.m.)
THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES (Universal, 1946)
Two ghosts from the Revolutionary War haunt a house until they can clear their names of treason charges.

Comedy. Directed by Charles Barton. With Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Black & white. 82 min.

Also on the program: two Warner Bros. shorts from 1946.

 

Friday, October 29 (7:30 p.m.)
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (Continental Distributing, 1968)
Radiation from a fallen satellite causes the recently deceased to rise from the grave and seek the living to use as food.

Horror. Intended for mature audiences. Directed by George Romero. With Duane Jones and Ken Hardman.
Selected for The National Film Registry in 1999.Black & White, 96 min. 

 

Saturday, October 30 (2:00 p.m.)
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN(20th Century Fox, 1974)
Dr. Frankenstein's grandson, after years of living down the family reputation, inherits granddad's castle and repeats the experiments.

Comedy. Directed by Mel Brooks. With Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman and Teri Garr.
Selected for The National Film Registry in 2003. Black & White, 106 min.

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