Film fest ends with `Underworld,' `Death House,' secret

May 04, 2008|By Chris Kaltenbach

Today is the final day of the 10th annual Maryland Film Festival. Check out these highlights:

For the chance to experience films the way your grandparents (and great-grandparents) saw them, see Josef von Sternberg's 1927 Underworld, a silent and one of Hollywood's first gangster flicks. The three-piece Alloy Orchestra, whose scores for silent films qualify as national treasures, will be on hand for the musical accompaniment. (11:30 a.m., Charles 1)

Jeffrey Schwarz's Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story, profiles one of Hollywood's greatest hucksters, the guy responsible for The Tingler, a 1959 Vincent Price flick where selected seats in the theater were wired, the better to elicit screams from the audience. They don't make 'em like Castle anymore. (12:30 p.m., University of Baltimore Student Center)

Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) plays host to a screening of Dusan Makavejev's 1971 WR: Mysteries of the Organism, a "psychedelic freak out" (to quote the MFF film guide). According to, the thing even has a plot, something about two Yugoslavian girls having an affair with a Russian skater. (2:30 p.m., Charles 1)

Good at keeping a secret? Wanna know something that nobody else knows - or can ever know? For the third year running, the festival presents a secret screening of a major studio film that you'll never be able to talk about. (Everyone in the audience has to sign a pledge to that effect.) Two years ago, the secret feature turned out to be a major Oscar contender. But don't ask me what it was, because they'd kill me if I told you. (5 p.m., Charles 1)

At the Death House Door, the latest film from Hoop Dreams' Steve James and Peter Gilbert, looks at the execution of a Texas prisoner who may have been innocent, and at a death-row chaplain whose job leads to a reversal of his stance regarding the death penalty. (5 p.m., MICA's Brown Center)

Melvin van Peebles is usually ticked off about something. Find out about his latest gripes in Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-Itchyfooted Mutha, the latest autobiographically inspired effort from the man who gave the world the incendiary Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. What a way to close this year's festival! (7:30 p.m., Charles 1)

Find more festival coverage, including a full schedule, at Also, check out live reports from the festival at The Sun's arts blog,

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