As cinematically savvy Open Culture readers know, most films of the silent era have fallen into the public domain, making them easy to watch on the internet. Several of the choicest have found their way into our collection of Free Movies Online. Anyone with an internet connection can thus give themselves an early-film education that would have been unthinkably convenient just twenty years ago, but the opportunities stretch out even further than that. Certain enterprising musicians have seized the opportunity to re-score these freely available silents, revitalizing the era’s clunkers and masterpieces alike with sonic styles that the composers of those days could never have even imagined. Above, you’ll find one of Weimar Germany’s finest expressionist films, The Golem: How He Came Into the World, brought to life like the clay statue of its title by a driving, jangling, rock-operatic score courtesy of one Black Francis.
If you’re unfamiliar, Black Francis, also know as Frank Black, fronts the rock band the Pixies. If you’re unfamiliar with them, you probably don’t tend to admit it in mixed company, since the combination of their startlingly widespread influence (Kurt Cobain called “Smells Like Teen Spirit” an attempt to “rip off the Pixies”) and enduring avoidance of the mainstream has earned them enormous rock-enthusiast credibility. Film geeks, for their part, probably won’t give you a hard time about not having seen Paul Wegener‘s the Golem trilogy, since two of the three have been lost. Though it came out in 1920 as the third Golem film, How He Came Into the World, a prequel to both its predecessors, tells the origin story of its title creature of Jewish legend. Created to protect the Chosen People of 16th-century Prague, the mute inhuman colossus soon turns against his makers. Watch what happens, in a cultural three-for-one to begin your week, with cinematographer Karl Freund’s manipulation of shadow and light (which he later showed off in Metropolis and Dracula), Black Francis’ casually complex rock magpie-ism, and the distinctive storytelling sensibility that produced the golem fable in the first place. (It’s available on DVD here.)