For a long time, I associated with a quotation I first read more than fifteen years ago -
dying is fine)but Death
Death if Death
The rudimentary reading of the poem by e.e.cummings put capital-D Death as the big finale while dying wasn’t a short precursor to the capital-D but a stand-in for living. living equals dying and dying equals living.
Nearly two decades later, I see that Death, upper case and all, isn’t the worst that can happen to someone. Being forgotten, being ignored and being Destroyed – capital Dee Eee Ess Tee Are Oh Why Ee Dee. These are worse than Death. And so, there are those who would stave off destruction, keep the forgotten in their minds and make sure that the past, with its players, are never ignored.
A month ago, I saw Bela Lugosi in a presentation of ‘White Zombie’ on a clean 16mm print put on by Phantom Creep Theater. The event, one of a series put on this summer at Coney Island and taking place in its Museum, returned the two original halves of the Silver Scream Spookshow. Viewing the Facebook page for Phantom Creep Theater, you will be privy to seeing pictures going back to 2005, where the pair of Count Moloch and Professor Morte started the production back on Coney Island. The two have since amicably divided. Morte’s relocation to Atlanta had him transplant the Silver Screen Spookshow where, to this day, he continues to accompany presentations of classic films with his live menagerie of characters. Count Moloch has made New York all the much better with like minded ghouls, as they put on the monthly 8mm Movie Matinee in the East Village.
Phantom Creep Theater, like the 8mm Movie Matinee, does much to bring the dead medium of film back to life. No digital allowed. The projector rattles loudly with the whirling frames passing by its light. Death sits in the audience of Phantom Creep Theater, viewing the busy motion of mortal hands undoing its work. These resurrectionists summon the passed and the past, presenting them before the gathered in a chance to undo time. It’s neat. On view is not just a performance but an experience.
These spookshows promise spirits and last time, the conjuring was well in effect with Professor Morte doing what he could to summon the biggest spirit the city had to offer, as well as the reunion of one of Moloch’s finest specimens, the Hypno-Corpse, with a long lost love from the historic Coney Island Sideshow.
Moloch, or his alter-ego, is a collector of shooting scripts and has made himself a scholar of the cinema. The man is, in mind and body, committed – if not to a mental institution than to the institution of film. The man knows about history and film and best yet, wants to share what he knows through performance. Moloch, a master of the mystic arts himself, will do his best to talk with the dead.
This Saturday, the next installment of the summer series of Phantom Creep Theatre distinguishes itself by going with a different direction in showing ‘The Unholy Three,’ featuring Lon Chaney Sr. in a Todd Browning crime drama. The macabre sense of the characters in ‘The Unholy Three’ is fitting, as the film involves carnies whose spiritual selves are more grotesque than any physical companions. It promises to be a night of fun and entertainment. Ticket prices remain 10 dollars. Do come out and see.
Similar to the first of the summer series, where the dramatic adaptation of ‘The Ghoul,’ there will be a recreation of the lost film that would end the life of Chaney Sr., THUNDER!. There will be reverence in the revelry. This happens only once a month. If you’re in the area, you have no good reason to miss it.