“…a brilliantly realized wedding of contemporary musical sensibility and technology with early 20th century cinema.”
– Chico News Review
Austin’s most adventurous band, The Invincible Czars, bring their new tastefully modern score for the 1922 German silent film Nosferatu (1922 F.W. Murnau) to select cities in the South, Midwest and East Coast (and of course all over Texas) this fall – including several double feature performances with the 1925 American film The Phantom of the Opera.
Nosferatu is one of the most revered films in the history of cinema. It is most certainly as the most important horror film of the silent era and one of the first vampire movies — though it was almost completely lost when the estate of Bram Stoker sued the filmmakers for copyright infringement and most of the prints of the movie were destroyed.
Fans, theaters and media have praised The Invincible Czars for making the near century-old movie “actually scary” for modern day audiences. The score and their performance of it complements the tone and emotion on-screen at any given moment.
But the group was reluctant to create the score at first. “There are tons of scores for Nosferatu out there,” says band leader Josh Robins. “Even the original score is still out there amid all the heavy metal, orchestral and electronic versions. We didn’t think the world needed another soundtrack for this movie but we kept getting lots of requests from fans and theaters around the country. So we watched it and started brainstorming. Once we latched onto a few ideas that were unique and memorable, it started snowballing. We wanted it to be unsettling and creepy by today’s standards without overpowering the film.”
Using a mix of acoustic and electric instruments helped. Violin, glockenspiel, organ, flute, bass clarinet, voices and vocals, music box, loops, electric guitar, bass, singing bowl and percussion all play prominent roles in the score and are a sight to behold when performed live by only four players!
The band always borrows music from the classical realm in their scores. For Nosferatu, they chose Bela Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances in a nod to the fictional Count Orlock’s home turf and because the pieces were composed around the same time as the movie was made. The highlight of the Czars’ arrangements is a haunting version of Romanian Dance IV (Buciumeana) featuring an otherworldly vocal performance by the band’s wind mistress Leila Henley – who also created much of the group’s wardrobe for the show.
Nosferatu tells the story of Hutter and Ellen, a couple from the village of Wisborg. Hutter travels to Transylvania to sell a piece of property in Wisborg to Count Orlok. Hutter stays in Orlok’s castle only to learn that the Count is a vampire. Orlok purchases a house next to Hutter’s, locks Hutter in the castle and travels to Wisborg. On the way, he manages to possess Hutter’s employer and Ellen and strike the village with an outbreak of the plague. Hutter rushes home to stop him before it’s too late!
The Invincible Czars have been performing their own scores for early 20th century silent films for nearly a decade in historic/hip theaters, colleges, outdoor spaces, DIY arts centers, etc. The shows appeal to people of a wide range of ages and interests and you’ll find film buffs, music lovers, horror fans, sci-fi geeks, metalheads, goths, classical music fans among their audiences.
They’ve built an audience for themselves as much as the movies they accompany by adding movies to their catalog, creating original artwork and wardrobe, encouraging audience participation, recording their scores. The band toured all over the US in 2016 with their score for Nosferatu. Fans, theaters and media praised them for making the near century-old movie “actually scary” for modern-day audiences with their cinematic sensibility and precise performances.
The Czars use a mix of acoustic and electric instruments, sound effects and even vocals. They also borrow a little music from the classical realm in each of their scores.
Phil Davidson – violin, keyboards, glockenspiel; Josh Robins – guitar, bass, percussion, loops; Aaryn Russell – bass; Dylan Younger -woodwinds