Though I attend screenings at the Redford Theatre pretty regularly, I’d only ever seen one silent film there — He Who Gets Slapped, which is one of my favorite silents. When I saw Pandora’s Box pop up on their schedule, projected from a 35mm print and accompanied by John Lauter, I couldn’t pass it up.
Things were a little bit different at this screening than at the others I’ve attended at the Redford. For one, only a single screening was given, at 8:00 pm on Saturday, March 28. There were no cartoons preceding the film, and no intermission. The film was introduced by John Monaghan, a Detroit Free Press journalist and high school film teacher who also led a discussion about Pandora’s Box, and the cultural influence of Louise Brooks after the film ended.
The screening was also one of the busiest I’ve been to at the Redford. The crowd was much larger than I expected for a Saturday night silent screening, which was great to see! (About 500 people attended, according to a post on the Redford’s Facebook page!)
Though a bit different from the other screenings I’ve attended at the Redford, my experience viewing Pandora’s Box was certainly no less wonderful than any of the other treks I’ve made to this beautiful theater.
The print shown was stunning — very high contrast. This was my first time seeing a Louise Brooks film on the big screen, and what a treat to see it in such good quality. The beauty of this film’s photography really shined through. (I found myself thinking frequently, “I need this shot printed and framed immediately for my wall!”)
If I’m honest, when I watched Pandora’s Box in the comfort of my own home, I liked it quite a bit but didn’t love it. Louise Brooks is captivating, but I always found the pace to be slightly slow (despite the fact that so much happens in the film!) and the Jack the Ripper twist at the end to be a little bit too ridiculous. But seeing it on the big screen made me like it a lot more. The Jack the Ripper twist is still ridiculous, but I was wholly engrossed in the film. I found a new appreciation for all of the performances (not just Louise, though she is fantastic). I was particularly impressed by Fritz Kortner, who is downright menacing in some of his later scenes.
John Lauter’s improvised score for the film was wonderful, as it was when I saw him accompany He Who Gets Slapped. As I mentioned in my review of that screening, it truly is a special experience to see a silent film with a unique score. A similar score may be played again, but never exactly the same way, and it’s a different score than you’ll find when the film pops up on TCM, or if you’re able to find it on DVD. It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.
There are a lot of great screenings coming up at the Redford — the most exciting of which, for me, will be a screening of Gone with the Wind attended by Mickey Kuhn, one of the few surviving members of the cast. For those of you in the Detroit area, find more information about the Redford and view the upcoming attractions at their website, redfordtheatre.com!