What’s Screening: October 26 – November 1

Halloween approaches, and that tells you plenty about what’s on Bay Area movie screens this week. And if you don’t like scary movies, you can attend one of more of the Bay Area’s current four film festivals.


New Restorations

B The War at Home, Opera Plaza, Shattuck, opens Friday

This 1979 documentary, now restored in 4K, focuses on the Vietnam-era antiwar movement in Madison, Wisconsin, with sit-ins, marching, strikes, police violence, and student violence. When you see the film today, you’re watching a nearly 40-year-old examination of what was then recent history. If you’re too young to have experienced those days, this film will give you a sense of what was happening. If you’re old enough to remember, it will help you wipe away the nostalgia. Read my full review. Co-director Glenn Silber will answer questions in person after these following screenings:

Promising events

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, Castro, Thursday, 7:00

Orson Welles’ unfinished final film, The Other Side of the Wind, is finally finished. The night before its premiere, this documentary will tell the story of the film. Directed by Morgan Neville, who also made Won’t You Be My Neighbor. Opening night of Doc Stories.

Classic Universal Monster Triple Bill: Dracula, The Wolf Man, & The Mummy, Castro, Sunday

Not all of Universal’s horror movies of the 30s and 40s compare well with James Whale’s Frankenstein pictures. Dracula (1931) started the series but suffers from stilted blocking and too much mediocre dialog. I barely remember The Wolf Man (1941) and The Mummy (1932). But I suspect the triple bill will have its own pleasures.

The Pirate, Stanford, Wednesday and Thursday

I loved this MGM musical, directed by Vincente Minnelli, when I first saw it some 40 years ago. Gene Kelly plays a traveling entertainer who falls for a local girl who wouldn’t give him the time of day (Judy Garland). To win her love, he pretends to be a notorious pirate.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Balboa, Monday, 7:30

Truth in titling. Francis Coppola ‘s vampire movie sticks closer to Stoker’s original novel than any other film adaptation. For instance, when we first meet the Count (Gary Oldman), he’s an old man, but fresh blood makes him young again. I remember liking it back in 1992, but I wasn’t bowled over by it.

Recommended revivals

A Nosferatu, New Parkway, Sunday, 3:00

Forget about sexy vampires; the first film version of Dracula (an unauthorized rip-off that got the filmmakers into legal trouble) doesn’t have one. Max Schreck plays Count “Orlok” as a reptilian predator in vaguely human form. This 1922 silent isn’t the scariest monster movie ever made, but it’s probably the creepiest. Not to be confused with Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake. Read my Blu-ray review. Unfortunately, the musical accompaniment will not be live.

B+ West of Zanzibar, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

This is one strange and nightmarish movie—a gem for those who love silent movies or weird cult films. Set mostly in a remote jungle trading post, Tod Chaney plays a cripple bent on destroying the man who stole his wife and broke his back (Lionel Barrymore). There are no innocents here, but there are human beings caught, often by their own devising, in a wretched and evil life. Preceded by the shorts Koko’s Haunted House and The Butcher’s Nightmare. Jon Mirsalis will accompany the movies on a Kurzweil keyboard.

B+ Wings of Desire, Roxie, Check times and dates

Wim Wenders’ fantasy about angels in Berlin offers a view of the city as a land of interior monologues. Two angels (Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander) watch over the people, listen to their thoughts, and comfort them in their pain. Then one of them falls in love with a trapeze artist and finds himself longing for mortality. Wenders couldn’t have known it when he made the film in 1988, but he was capturing the last months of a divided city; the wall seen in the film would soon come down. With Peter Falk as a strange version of himself.

B The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, San Francisco Public Library, Latino/Hispanic Community Room A/B, Wednesday, 6:00

This important piece of German expressionism is an easier film to admire than to like. The story is very conventional–at least until the end. But visually speaking, this must be one of the weirdest commercial movies ever made. It’s strange design and way over-the-top acting keeps the audience at arms-length. The constant intensity can be exhausting. But the atmosphere can also have a powerful hold. Frederick Hodges will accompany the film on piano.

B Frankenstein (1931 version), New Mission, Saturday, 1:15

Frankenstein did more than create a monster. He turned James Whale into a top director and Boris Karloff into a major star (no mean feat since Karloff neither spoke in the film nor received screen credit). Several individual scenes are masterpieces of mood, horror, and crossed sympathies, but there’s so little story that the movie feels like a warm-up for the infinitely superior sequel, Bride of Frankenstein. Still, it was one of the most influential horror movies ever made, and Jack Pierce’s makeup for the monster is still iconic more than 80 years after the film’s release. In this Super7 Candypocalypse presentation, each ticket holder will get a bucket of candy.

B Donnie Darko, Castro, Tuesday

How many alienated-teenager-in-suburbia-time-travel-science-fantasy comedies can you name? Okay, there’s Back to the Future and its sequels, but add the adjectives horrific and surreal to that description, and Donnie Darko stands alone. And how many alienated movie teenagers must deal with a slick self-help guru and a six-foot rabbit named Frank (think Harvey, only vicious). It’s not entirely clear what’s going on in this strange movie, but that just adds to the fun. On a double bill with The Hollywood Knights.

Frequently-revived classics