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The Invincible Czars Kick Off the Boadway Cinema’s Tower of Terror

The Broadway hosted the music collective the Invincible Czars for two performances to begin its fall celebration of horror films.
(Courtesy of The Invincble Czars)
(Courtesy of The Invincble Czars)

 

After the huge success of the Salt Lake Film Society’s Summer Showdown, they are jumping directly into their next program of films with Tower of Terror at the Broadway. This run of films is a two-month-long celebration of the horror genre with a diverse selection of films.

Movies such as “The Thing,” “Midsommar,” a “Friday the 13thdouble feature and “Evil Dead II” in 35mm are being showcased. To kick off the event, the Broadway hosted the music collective the Invincible Czars for two performances unlike any other.

For these shows, the band performed live scoring for the silent, black-and-white horror films “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”  and “Nosferatu.” With a unique, rock sound backing the striking visuals, these films became whole new experiences.

Scoring Silent Horror

“The most important thing we can do, especially with these older movies, is give the audience some sense of how the characters feel,” said Josh Robins, creator of the Invincible Czars. “We don’t want to beat people over the head like, ‘This is a sad part!’ but to compliment it in a way to clarify the story or clarify the emotion on screen.”

Robins and his music group have been producing music for over 20 years. This includes original work, re-workings of classical pieces and of course, original scores for silent films.

In the past, they’ve scored films like “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Nosferatu.” Their most recent work has been on “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” While Robins acknowledges the band certainly has “their sound,” specific choices were made to ensure their newest soundtrack was unique to the film.

“I think what we did differently this time was we wrote using a lot more whole-tone scales that sound dreamy,” Robins said. “We wrote using a lot more keyboard synthesizers and sounds you would hear in, maybe, movies and TV from the ’80s.”

Given the film’s often abstract and unworldly imagery, the band found it a top priority to capture that within their music.

“There’s a bass effect I like to use called an envelope filter that gives the bass a bit of a ‘BWAH’ kind of tone,” Robins said. “We use that, especially for the theme we use for Dr. Caligari when he’s on screen. As the movie goes on, I begin to use that effect more and more.”

Robins also mentioned that to match the film’s psychological suspense, they began to mash different leitmotifs together to create a musical “mess” in the finale.

One particularly interesting piece used in the score was one written by Robins years ago, called “Return of the Pink Elephants.” The piece is inspired by “Pink Elephants on Parade” from 1941’s “Dumbo.”

“It has a buffoonish kind of ‘bump buh bump buh bump,'” said Robins. “That 6/8 swing sort of a thing. The character, Dr. Caligari, is evil and scary but he’s also buffoonish. It’s scary in a dorky way.”

As Robins had mentioned earlier, characters bleed into the sound of the music.

Here’s to the Tour — and to the Future

On the tour performing in front of these silent classics, the group finds nothing is harder than keeping on track with the film.

“As we’re composing we try to get the timing the way we think it ought to be, but when it comes to doing it live it can be a different story,” Robins said. “We use metronomes to keep in track but there are spots that are a little bit different each night.”

As much as they wish they could pull off playing it the same way each night, sometimes changes must be made.

“It requires knowing the music, knowing each other, and being able to improvise on the spot and come to these agreements in the moment,” Robins said.

These last-minute choices can at times be blessings in disguise, though.

“Getting slightly off can lend itself to happy accidents,” Robins added. “Sometimes something cool happens in the moment that’s not even on the soundtrack and we go, ‘Oh, we’re gonna put that in the show!’ That can be comedic moments, or musical moments, little extras that evolve as the tour goes on.”

Following the tour, the Invincible Czars already have big plans on the docket.

“We did ‘Phantom of the Opera’ years ago and in 2025 it will turn 100 years old, so we’re gonna take next year and revamp it, redevelop it, add drums, add Hampton in, rethink some stuff, tighten the screws and then come back out in 2025 for the centennial of that movie,” Robins said.

The group also has found interest in scoring “Metropolis” but is considering delving back into their non-movie-related roots.

“Silent film isn’t the only thing we do,” said Robins. “We recorded a version of a classical piece called ‘Pictures at an Exhibition.’ We recorded that back in 2013 and never released it. … I think everybody misses the days of playing rock clubs.”

The Invincible Czars not only have a full plate presently but also for the future. They can’t wait to share their musical feast with everyone else.

You can catch them on their tour from now to Nov. 6. You can also listen to the rest of their work on their website and most music streaming platforms.

As for Tower of Terror at the Broadway, you can catch a horror classic on the big screen every Friday and Saturday from now until Halloween.

 

[email protected]

@grahamcool8

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About the Contributor
Graham Jones
Graham Jones, Assistant Arts Editor
Graham Jones was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and moved to Utah to study film. Despite his passion for cinema, Graham joined the Chronicle to engage with the University of Utah community and pursue his love for journalism. Outside of the student media office, Graham can be found buried deep into the pages of a graphic novel or lip-syncing to the greatest hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

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