The Man Who Laughs

Monday, June 11
Share this
1hr 50mins // directed by:Paul Leni // featuring:Conrad Veidt, Mary Philbin, Olga Baclanova // DCP

The Coolidge Corner Theatre is proud to welcome back the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra (BSFO) for the New England premiere of their new, original score to Universal Pictures’ The Man Who Laughs (1928). Universal itself has commissioned Berklee to create the original score recording for their brand-new restoration of the film, the first time a Hollywood studio has ever engaged the students of a college or university to score one of its features. The Man Who Laughs will be the twelfth original Berklee score the BSFO will have performed on the Coolidge's Sounds of Silents® program.

90 years after Victor Hugo’s story of human cruelty and the redemptive power of love first captivated global film audiences, Universal Pictures’ The Man Who Laughs, a melodrama embued with a penetrating darkness, returns to the screen. Roger Ebert has called the film "One of the final treasures of German silent Expressionism.”  Its shadowy exteriors, the carnival setting, and the demonically misshapen "hero” — the ackowledged inspiration for DC Comics’ The Joker — made director Paul Leni’s The Man Who Laughs something entirely new to American cinema, and the foundation upon which the classic Universal horror films would be built.  

Conrad Veidt (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) stars as Gwynplaine, a nobleman's son who is kidnapped by a political enemy, and then is mutilated by a gypsy "surgeon" who carves a monstrous smile upon his face. Finding shelter in a traveling freakshow, he falls in love with a blind girl (Mary Philbin, The Phantom Of the Opera), the one person who cannot be repulsed by his appearance. As years pass, the hand of fate draws Gwynplaine back into the world of political intrigue. He becomes the plaything of a jaded duchess (Olga Baclanova, Freaks), and his enemies renew their efforts to control him.

About the BSFO

​Described by film critic Leonard  Maltin as “nothing short of thrilling," the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra (BSFO) is dedicated to composing new, original scores for silent feature classics, and performing them live-to-picture. Based at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, in the world’s first undergraduate degree program in film scoring, the student orchestra has composed this new work, and will perform it as an ensemble, under the leadership of Berklee Chair of Film Scoring Alison Plante, and Assistant Professor of Film Scoring Peter Bufano.  The BSFO’s seven student composers each conduct the 12-piece film orchestra in a “reel” of the film, passing the baton, in a small spectacle of musical synchrony and virtuosity, live-to-picture.

To date, the BSFO has scored and performed eleven iconic silent features, including F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise, Faust, and The Last Laugh, Clarence Badger’s It, Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, Buster Keaton’s Our Hospitality, E.A. Dupont’s Piccadilly and Varieté, Rupert Julian’s The Phantom of the Opera, and Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last! and The Freshman, each of these commissioned by the Coolidge Corner Theatre’s Sounds of Silents® program.