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The Club Foot Orchestra
Eleven San Francisco-based musicians known as the Club Foot Orchestra have made a specialty of steaming away the mustiness that can settle on revered old movies. They don't limit themselves to sounds of the silent-picture era, and they don't try to "channel" the directors. They respond to movies like ultrasensitive viewers who happen to be musical artists. Seeing great silent films like Buster Keaton's Sherlock, Jr. and Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari with scores they compose and perform is like watching these classics with dream audiences who express inspired reactions.

In their score for Sherlock, Jr., they drop into mournful guitar licks after Keaton is mortified in front of his true love, and later echo the James Bond theme when his detective alter ego rescues the heroine with a fast car and an exploding billiard ball. In their score for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari they set off festive brassy sounds for the fairground scenes, only to have their string players shriek and racket through the movie's peaks of dementia like Bernard Herrmann's violin section after a collective synapse breakdown. The Club Foot musicians riff on the imagery with an abandon akin to the filmmakers'. When they release themselves, they also liberate the audience.

-- Michael Sragow

Sherlock, Jr. screens at 7 p.m. and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari screens at 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Nov. 22-24. There's also a 2 p.m. matinee of Sherlock, Jr. on Sunday. At the Castro Theater, Castro & Market. Tickets are $10, $5 for the matinee; call 621-6120.

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