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Ensemble gives classic ‘Nosferatu’ a new score

By Miranda Andrade


The Long Beach Art Theater was at maximum capacity Monday with the audience munching on buttered popcorn, sipping Pabst Blue Ribbon and red wine and digging into boxes of candy. Meanwhile, the Jack Curtis Dubowsky Ensemble prepared for the debut of its score to the original 1922 horror silent classic “Nosferatu.”

The screening marked the sixperson ensemble’s fourth performance at the venue. This time, the JCD Ensemble performed a 90-minute, reconfigured score to the film that marked the firstever appearance of vampires in the early 1920s.

The JCD Ensemble is a new music group that combines acoustic instruments, electronic hardware, composed material and structured improvisation. Dubowsky is known for his work on such films as “Monster’s Inc.,” “Toy Story 2” and “Submerged Queer Spaces,” the last of which premiered at the African American Arts and Culture Complex for the 2010 National Queer Arts Festival and was underwritten by the San Francisco Foundation, Grants for the Arts and the Hotel Tax Fund.

The film “Nosferatu” was widely regarded as an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” released in 1897. In an attempt to avoid copyright infringement claims, director F.W. Murnau and the writers behind “Nosferatu” altered a few things — for example, “vampire” became “Nosferatu,” and “Count Dracula”


The horror classic “Nosferatu” screened at Long Beach’s Art Theater with new, live music. The original score to the 1922classic was lost.



was changed to “Count Orlok.”

Stoker’s heirs — namely his widow, Florence Balcombe, sued the studio behind “Nosferatu.”

Prana Film declared bankruptcy in order to dodge the expensive suits thrown at it, and a court ruling ordered that all copies of the film be destroyed.

While a few prints of “Nosferatu” survived the court ruling, the original score was never recovered.

This gives conduc- tors and composers like Dubowsky the opportunity to get a little creative when developing scores suitable for the German Expressionist horror film.

“(This screening) makes me love the Art Theater,” said Julia Gomez, a 28-year-old Long Beach resident.

“I don’t think being able to watch a film like this with a live orchestra is something we, as a community, could really get anywhere else.”

Dubowsk y honored “Nosferatu” as an pioneer in horror film, free from the typical vampire cliches that have been developed by filmmakers through the years.

“Dracula became a caricature in later films, but Nosferatu exploits his contradictions,” Dubowsky said.

“(He is) worldly but cloistered. Approachable but distant. Good-mannered but deadly. “Nosferatu” leans lighter on the daylight-garlic-crucifix tropes that we see in (modern) films, and he keeps his ancestry mysterious and opaque.”

The JCD Ensemble was scheduled to perform its score for a second time Tuesday at the Santa Monica Public Library.

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