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‘Out of the Past’ films return to the big screen

Elsinore theater, on high street in downtown Salem.

Elsinore theater, on high street in downtown Salem.

By Thomas Laskey – Photo by Amanda Fazzio

A diverse selection of film classics await movie lovers every week at the Historic Elsinore Theatre.

The movies are chosen and shown on the big screen so that Chemeketa students, along with moviegoers of all stripes, can gain an appreciation for the craft, complexity, and dynamic visual design of classical filmmaking, according to Robert Bibler.

Bibler serves as the series coordinator. He is a retired Chemeketa Films Studies program instructor.

The Historic Elsinore offers the movies at 7 p.m. every Wednesday night.

The current series of films began in January.

The movies are offered in three different categories:

A Wider World: Rites of Passage in Three Classic Films;

Masters of the Silent Screen: Restored Films with Live Organ Accompaniment; and

The Detective Thriller and Film Noir.

“There is more to be learned when watching movies within some sort of category, and I think it is more fun. Since the Wednesday Evening Film series is intended to be educational, grouping films by theme, or by style, or by period, is useful and illuminating,” Bibler said.

The theater itself is part of the experience.

“The absolutely fabulous Tudor Gothic architectural décor of this beautifully preserved movie palace is a treat to experience every time you sit down in front of the screen,” he said.

The film series is organized by category and then by date as follows:

Next up in the Wider World: Rites of Passage segment:

National Velvet: Feb. 18. A winner of two Oscars, the movie tells the story of a young English girl who befriends a troubled boy and an unruly horse, which she aims to race competitively.

The next two offerings in the Masters of the Silent Screen: Restored Films with Live Organ Accompaniment (Organ accompaniment by Rick Parks):

Speedy: Feb. 11. This is the story of an obsessive baseball fan who must help save his girlfriend’s grandfather’s business: the last horse-drawn trolley in New York City. A notable feature of the film is a cameo by Babe Ruth.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: Feb. 25. The oldest film of this year’s Wednesday night film series (released in Germany in 1919) is regarded as one of the most influential of all time. It tells the story of a student who must contend with the strange Dr. Caligari, whose carnival exhibit may be connected with a series of murders. This film is credited with introducing the twist ending.

The three pending offerings in the Detective Thriller and Film Noir:

The Maltese Falcon: March 4. Sam Spade, portrayed by Humphrey Bogart, enters the San Francisco underworld to avenge the murder of his partner. Spade’s quest for justice is plagued by a dark attraction to a devious woman, Brigid, and to an elusive antique.

Laura: March 11. A detective who conducts an investigation of a murdered woman becomes fixated on her painted portrait. Stories that are relayed to him by others, and through flashbacks, increase his fascination with the woman. The movie has a haunting musical theme and Oscar-winning cinematography.

Out of the Past: March 18. Jeff Bailey, a rural gas station operator and former detective, is drawn back into the urban underworld by a dangerously charming gangster and an alluring femme noire. Jeff must struggle to stay ahead of deceptions and double crosses.

“There are several of my favorites on this list,” Bibler said. “But if I had to pick just one, it’s Out of the Past. It’s a complicated detective thriller, packed with snappy dialogue, wisecracks, and scenes of eerie beauty and underworld menace. It is unforgettable, and the chance to see it on a big screen should not be missed.”

Bibler also said that the chance to see any of these movies on the big screen is rare.

“When older movies get relegated to television – and worse, tablet or phone screens – it becomes harder to perceive the amazing visual language and spectacular photography that was designed for a theatrical space,” he said. “It is an experience not to be missed.”

Admission is $5.

The Historic Elsinore Theatre is located at 170 High Street SE in Salem.

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