TCM unleashes ghosts, witches, curses and creatures in a feast of October horror films

Movies teach us lessons.

Like think twice before accepting an invitation to stay overnight in a mansion. Don’t visit an English village – especially in the 17th century. If an inheritance involves an old house or meeting relatives for the first time,  you might want to politely decline. And Dracula is never really dead.

Those are some of the recurring themes in the more than 70 horror films being aired in October by Turner Classic Movies.

TCM’s annual October scarefest returns with a night of themed horror movies every Thursday in October: “Betwitched” is the theme on Oct. 3, “Black Magic” on Oct. 10, “Ghost Stories” on Oct. 17, “The Undead” on Oct. 24 and “Horror Classics” on Oct. 31.

Friday nights are devoted to the TCM Monster of the Month, Godzilla (who brings along a few friends). You’ll find other horror films sprinkled throughout the schedule, too, with a horror marathon starting at 8 p.m. Oct. 30 and concluding in royal fashion with “Dracula, Prince of Darkness” at 6:45 a.m. Nov. 1.

This is what we have to look forward to: at least 10 movies from Hammer Film Productions; 8 movies starring Christopher Lee; 6 films each that  feature Vincent Price and Peter Cushing; 4 with Karloff and 3 films directed by Roger Corman. Multiple movies carry the names of Barbara Shelley, Val Lewton, Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Matheson and American International Pictures (AIP), another favorite studio for horror fans.

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In the moment: The unique way Jeff Rapsis creates music for silent films

Silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis doesn’t use sheet music when he sits at the keyboard as a movie plays in front of him. He doesn’t have the score memorized either. In fact, it’s not even created yet.

Every time the New Hampshire-based musician, composer and educator performs with a silent film, he improvises the music.

That unique style came from a serendipitous moment about 15 years ago, the first time he performed with a silent film, the 1925 Lon Chaney classic “Phantom of the Opera.”

“I thought I would have it all planned out,” Rapsis said. “But the night of the performance I had to go in and wing it to see how it would go. I saw pretty quickly it was quite preferable to be there with a film and play what was right at the time instead of planning in advance.”

Rapsis enjoyed it so much he wanted to do it again. Understanding the great skills of other musicians/composers doing similar work, he decided the way to achieve the same strong performance level would only happen if he played – a lot. Not practice, mind you, but performing in front of an audience. And that’s what he did.

“I had to do a lot of shows,” Rapsis said. “The only way to get to that level was to do it a lot and for real with a film playing and audience there. So that’s what I’ve been doing for 15 years.”

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September classic films and special events in the Buffalo area

The return of the Niagara Falls International Film Festival in September will be of special interest to classic movie fans.

The second NFIFF, which runs from Sept. 18 to 21, opens with a red carpet event on Sept. 18  in the Rapids Theatre (1711 Main St., Niagara Falls) and continues with screenings in the Regal Cinemas Hollywood 12 in Niagara Falls through the end of the festival.

Highlights include a celebration of the career of director Samuel Fuller with his wife and daughter – Christa and Samantha Fuller – in attendance. The event will show such Fuller classics as “The Naked Kiss” (1964), “Hell and High Water” (1954), “Shock Corridor” (1963) and “The Big Red One” (1980), which will be the closing night’s film. Samantha Fuller’s documentary about her father, “A Fuller Life,” will be screened as well.

NFIFF also includes a visit from Oscar-winner Louis Gossett Jr. who will attend with his film “The Reason,” as well as Xander Berkeley (“The Walking Dead,” “24”) and Jackson Rathbone (“The Twilight Saga”), who will be on hand for Magdalena Zyzak’s “The Wall of Mexico.”

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