Castle to host classic vampire film

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Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News

Greg Gerard, executive director of The Castle, shows off his vampire teeth in front of a historic pipe organ. The Castle will be showing "Nosferatu," a silent vampire film on Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. The silent film will include music from the pipe organ.

BELOIT — What’s weird, kind of creepy and a little bit funny? It’s a 1922-style vampire.

Those at The Castle, 501 Prospect St., hope to bring this gargoyle-like creature to Beloit to get people warmed up for the Halloween season. The Castle will be holding a silent movie event complete with live music, comedic interludes, a costume contest, cocktails and more to celebrate the gargoyle-like creature, according to Greg Gerard, executive director of The Castle.

“Nosferatu,” which means vampire in Romanian, will be showing at 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at The Castle. Doors will open at 6 p.m. Cocktails and movie snacks will be available for purchase. It costs $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Tickets are available by calling 608-362-1583 or by visiting The silent film was directed by F.W. Murnau and stars Max Schreck as Count Orlock.

What’s most special about the event, according to The Castle co-owner Jody Wittnebel, is how musical accompaniment will be played on The Castle’s historic Henry Pilcher & Sons pipe organ and will echo throughout the sanctuary as the silent film classic plays on the big screen. Tyler Pimm, a music director and organist at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Beloit, will be composing the music to go along with a series of themes for each scene.

Wittnebel said the organ music will provide a spectacular experience, as the room vibrates with Pimm’s original work. On Monday, John Milner and Larry Marowski, were out at The Castle for the sixth time, ensuring the organ was properly tuned and ready for the big performance.

Gerard said the silent film is the first adaptation on the big screen of “Dracula,” a 1897 novel written by Bram Stoker. Although it’s not as scary as the chainsaw wielding monsters and killers in today’s horror flicks, it has a haunting effect.

“It’s just got a memorable visual vibe about it. Some of it’s almost kind of funny. You know what they are going for, but it’s of that era. It’s not what we are used to seeing,” Gerard said.

Without the extensive makeup, costuming and technological effects, the film relies on subtle camera tricks and the actors’ exaggerated movements and expressions. Wittnebel called the acting “way over the top and very campy.”

“All the actors probably came from the stage. It didn’t occur to them when they got on the silver screen that they could tone it down a bit,” Gerard added.

Because of the over-emoting of the characters those at The Castle thought it would be fun to include some song parodies and a few commentaries by Gerard and others.

“We are not trying to poke a whole lot of fun at it. It’s a classic. But we want to give them a little bit to chuckle at,” Gerard said.

The story follows the basic storyline of the Stoker novel, with the vampire running out of people to feed upon, as he finds himself smitten by a girl. The townsfolk assume a plague is responsible for the increasing number of deaths.

Although Gerard will be donning his pointed vampire teeth and widow’s peak, the vampire on screen sports a very different look. Gerard compared him to a gargoyle with big ears, a hook nose and claw-like fingernails.

“The vampires that we know throughout history have all got a handsome-ish quality even though they are creepy. This vampire is just hideous. He’s almost got the face of a hideous witch,” Gerard said.

John and Jody Wittnebel purchased the old Presbyterian Church at 501 Prospect St. three years in November to create an arts and entertainment venue. The first two years were mostly filled with construction, with The Castle opening in the spring of 2014. It’s held more than 25 events, including fundraisers, banquets, luncheons, variety shows and more as well as its educational programming.

The Castle hasn’t held its grand opening yet as there is still construction work underway on the third floor.

For more information visit or like it on Facebook at “The Castle at 501 Prospect.”

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