In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the German silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920 Robert Wiene), Austin’s most adventurous band, The Invincible Czars, have created their own tastefully modern score for the picture. The music was performed live with the movie across the Eastern US and Canada in fall 2019, and was to have been performed on a Western US and Canada tour that was canceled due to the Covid pandemic..
(The tours also include a few double feature performances with Murnau’s most famous film Nosferatu.)
Dr. Caligari is one of the silent era’s most beloved and enigmatic works. It considered by many to be the first German Expressionist film and the first great motion picture in the horror genre. It is the first movie to incorporate surrealistic production in such and all-encompassing way with quirky sets, angular shadows and creepy make-up.
It tells the story of a mysterious traveler who arrives in a small village to showcase his Somnabulist (sleepwalker) in the local fair. Shortly thereafter, a series of murders lead the narrator, Franzis, and his friends to believe that Dr. Caligari and his sleepwalking assistant may be responsible, but something’s not quite right and the conclusion is quite surprising for 100 year old movie.
Fans, theaters and media have praised The Invincible Czars for making near century-old movies “actually scary” and more enjoyable for modern day audiences. The scores and their performances complement the tone and emotion on-screen at any given moment. The band employs a mix of acoustic, electric and synthesized instruments including violin, glockenspiel, organ, vocals, loops, electric guitar, bass. It’s quite a sight to behold when performed live by only four players!
The band has borrowed music from classical composers for past scores and Caligari is the first time they've strayed from that formula to include only new compositions. It’s also their most collaborative work in nearly decade with contributions from each of the group’s touring line-up and their co-composer Henry Q Vines.
Since the departure of the band’s permanent winds player in 2017, they’ve toured with various stand-ins. This year they’ve opted to fill the fourth chair with keyboardist/guitarist Skunk Manhattan. Skunk leads his own band (A Good Rogering) and plays guitar for Austin metal workers Runescarred – a band for which Czars’ Czar Josh Robins plays bass. With his synthesizer, Skunk adds sounds like bassoon, vibraphone and (you guessed it) flute to ensemble’s live sound palette and the additional keyboard has freed the guitar up to play more melodic lines.
The rest of the ensemble is as usual – Phil Davidson on violin, glockenspiel and some keyboards; Aaryn Russell on bass guitar; Josh Robins on guitar, percussion and samples.
The Invincible Czars have been performing their own scores for early 20th century silent films since 2007 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, and 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, and recording their scores.
Phil Davidson - violin, keyboards, glockenspiel; Josh Robins - guitar, bass, percussion, loops; Aaryn Russell - bass; Skunk Manhattan - keyboards, guitar synthesizer; Henry Q Vines – additional composition and direction
SPRING 2020 CENTENNIAL TOUR (alas, canceled):
3/31 - Dallas, TX - Texas Theatre
4/1 - Denton, TX - Alamo Drafthouse
4/2 - Lubbock, TX - Alamo Drafthouse
4/3 – Albuquerque, NM - Guild Cinema
4/4 – Santa Fe, NM - CCA (Nosferatu)
4/5 – Santa Fe, NM - PRIVATE EVENT
4/6 – Colorado Springs, CO - Ivywild School
4/9 - Denver, CO – Sie FilmCenter
4/8 – Boulder, CO – CU International Film Series
4/11 – Salt Lake City, UT – Tower Theatre
4/14 – Bellingham, WA - Pickford Film Center
4/16 – Tacoma, WA - Grand Cinema
4/17 – Seattle, WA - Seattle Int'l Film Fest
4/18 – Olympia, WA - Olympia Film Fest!
4/19 – Vancouver, BC -Rio Theatre
4/21 – Vancouver, WA - Kiggins Theatre
4/22 – Portland, OR - Clinton Street Theatre
4/23 – Chico, CA – Pageant Theatre
4/24 – Eureka, CA – Eureka Theatre
4/25 – Larkspur, CA – Lark Theatre
4/26 – Oakland, CA – New Parkway - (double feature)
4/27 – San Francisco, CA – Alamo Drafthouse
4/28 - Santa Ana, CA - Frida Cinema
4/29 – Flagstaff, AZ – The Pink House
5/1 - Phoenix, AZ – Film Bar
5/2 – Tucson, AZ – Loft Cinema
5/3 – El Paso, TX – Alamo Drafthouse
FALL 2019 TOUR
9/27 – Houston, TX – Alamo Drafthouse (Nosferatu)
9/29 – New Orleans LA – Zeitgiest
10/1 – Mobile AL – Crescent Theatre
10/2 – Montgomery AL – Capri Theatre
10/3 – Athens GA – Cine (double feature)
10/4 – Raleigh, NC – Alamo Drafthouse
10/5 – Raleigh, NC – Alamo Drafthouse
10/6 – Charlottesville VA – Alamo Drafthouse
10/7 – Woodbridge VA – Alamo Drafthouse (Nosferatu)
10/8 – Ashburn VA – Alamo Drafthouse
10/9 – Arlington VA – Arlington Cinema Drafthouse (Nosferatu)
10/11 – Pelham NY – Picturehouse (Nosferatu)
10/12 – Emmaus, PA – Emmaus Theatre (Nosferatu)
10/13 – Yonkers, NY – Alamo Drafthouse
10/14 – Brooklyn, NY – Alamo Drafthouse
10/16 – Huntington, NY – Cinema Arts Center
10/17 – Buffalo NY – North Park Theatre (double feature)
10/18 – Toronto, ON – Fox Theatre (Nosferatu)
10/19 – Kitchener, ON – Apollo Cinema
10/21 – Detroit, MI – Cinema Detroit
10/22 – Minneapolis, MN – Alamo Drafthouse
10/23 – Des Moines, IA – Fleur Cinema
10/24 – Omaha NE – Alamo Drafthouse
10/25 – St Louis, MO – Webster University
10/26 – Carbondale, IL – Varsity Center
10/27 – Kansas City, MO – Alamo Drafthouse (double feature)
10/28 – Tulsa, OK – Circle Cinema
10/29 – Denton, TX – Alamo Drafthouse (Nosferatu)
10/30 – Dallas, TX – Texas Theatre (Nosferatu)
10/31 – Austin, TX – Alamo Ritz (Nosferatu)
11/7 – Huntsville TX – Old Town Theatre
11/15 – Houston, TX – Alamo Drafthouse (Caligari)