Greatest Hits with Club Foot Orchestra

Waaay back in September, I returned to the Castro Theatre with my pal for another screening of silent shorts. We made a quick weekend trip to the Bay Area in order to see our favorite fella: Buster Keaton. I was also really excited to see an early Felix the Cat film onscreen, particularly because my nine-year-old self collected anything and everything Felix. In total, we would be treated to four short films in one afternoon, plus live musical accompaniment by the Club Foot Orchestra.

The screenings were scheduled on Saturday, September 15th, and would include more well-known silent films to be screened throughout the day. However, we were on a tight schedule and could only stay for one program. After a two-hour drive, we arrived into windy San Francisco around noon, found a lucky parking spot a block away from the theater (again!), and ate lunch at Orphan Andy’s just around the corner.

Once we got our tickets at will-call, we entered the lobby and were greeted by its beautiful interiors. We took our seats, enjoyed the ongoing slideshow, and the program started promptly around 1 pm. At this point, I looked around and there was practically a full house! People of all ages attended.

The films —

WOOS WHOOPEE (1928): In my notes, I remarked that there was a 1940s big band sound that kicked off the beginning, which I really enjoyed. The orchestra also played a cacophony of sound effects throughout the film, which kinda went with the surreal aspect of the animation. As for the film itself, I adored the subtle yet creative animated details such as Felix raising his ears like a hat, and the dotted line emanating from his eyes when he spots something.

ONE WEEK (1920): This film is one of my favorites because, not only is it very sweet, it also has some of the most memorable visuals of Buster’s filmography. Once again, there were jazzy and swinging elements in the accompaniment (seriously loved this!), followed by loud applause and cheering at end.

THE BLACKSMITH (1922): The restored version with rediscovered footage was screened, which I wrote more about here!

COPS (1922): I always go back to this one from time to time because I love the cinematography in this film, especially in the chase sequence. Not to mention the way the film seems to move in a life of its own. From time to time, I caught myself listening to a beautiful reverb of laughter coupled with the comedic goings-on that proceeded all throughout the film. Just the way it should be.

Club Foot Orchestra received a standing ovation at the tail end of the program, and I can see why. There were times when I wanted to get up and dance. It was wonderful listening to their musical interpretations of the various films and scenes, especially in a live setting.

Since we still had a little bit of time left afterwards, we decided to head over to the Musée Mécanique at Fisherman’s Wharf. Out of all the times I’ve been to San Francisco, this was my first visit to the museum. It was fun getting to see and try out some of the early moving image prototypes, such as the mutoscope and praxinoscope. The place was pretty crowded when we went, but it just gives us another excuse to go back and see more next time!

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