In the early 1970s Gary Lucas was a student at Yale University when he founded a campus horror-film society called Things That Go Bump in the Night. This weekend the acclaimed guitarist will perform his goosebump-inducing score for The Golem, a 1920 silent screening at the FlynnSpace in Burlington. The project combines two of Lucas' greatest passions: music and scary movies. The German Expressionist classic, on tap at 4 and 8 p.m. on Saturday, is based on an ancient folktale about a rabbi who constructs a gigantic man out of clay to protect his Prague ghetto against anti-Semitic attacks.
"I was always fascinated by Jewish myths and legends but had never seen the film," the Syracuse native explains during a telephone interview from his Manhattan home. "In 1989 the Brooklyn Academy of Music commissioned me as an avant-garde artist to create a new work. I looked at a Golem print and was bowled over."
Lucas scored it with his childhood friend Walter Horn, who initially accompanied him on keyboards. The piece earned rave reviews.
"Walter was committed to a day job, so I figured out a way to go solo," the fiftysomething Lucas recalls. "Since then, I've toured with the film in Europe, Scandinavia, Israel and Russia. I tell people I'm in the Golem business."
Back in 1978, however, he went into the rock 'n' roll business. Lucas spent four years playing guitar with Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, a Frank Zappa-like blues ensemble. A decade later, Lucas launched his own "psychedelic hard rock" group, Gods and Monsters. "We've made more than a dozen albums," he notes. "A new one's coming out this summer."
Lucas' cinematic efforts include the score for an Oscar-nominated 2001 documentary, LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton. In the 1990s Lucas also crafted background music for ABC News segments on such topics as the Unabomber and the Martin Luther King assassination. "It was invariably the most violent events, or stories with the scent of death," he suggests.
Accordingly, The Golem is a rather grim saga. The clay creature, which eventually runs amok, reportedly inspired the Frankenstein and Mummy genre in Hollywood. Lucas, who was raised as a Reform Jew, describes the "crazy, psychotic" music he wrote for the picture as classical and rock "with a Hebraic tint."
That tint will be full-tilt at the Israel Film Festival, which begins at 7 p.m. on Sunday in Burlington's new Israel Café at 212 Battery Street -- the Kelliher Samets Volk building. This free monthly series comes courtesy of the Israel Center of Vermont, a year-old organization devoted to cultural and educational matters.
"We have no political or religious affiliations," says Shoshannah Boray, the center's program director. "Most of the films we're presenting are slice-of-life, not hard-hitting political tracts."
The debut feature is Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi, a 2004 coming-of-age drama about an adolescent boy. For info, visit http://www.icvt.org or call 1-866-755-4288.
Sas Carey worked in Mongolia as a United Nations health educator for three months in 1997. "The same year, I got a message while meditating that I needed to make a film there," says the Middlebury holistic nurse.
Carey shot Gobi Women's Song over subsequent summers -- 2001, 2003 and 2004 -- in the Mongolian desert. She'll screen the 73-minute documentary, which traces the daily lives of five nomads, at 8 p.m. on Friday in Middlebury's Great Falls Fine Arts Gallery. Call 388-1301 to reserve a $10 ticket.
Carey first visited Mongolia on a 1994 American Holistic Nurses Association tour to learn about traditional medicine, a trip made possible by one of her Vermont clients who offered to pre-pay for seven years' worth of treatment.
The film was similarly blessed. "Some stoners I know from the old days gave me money to return to Mongolia in 2001," says Carey, who migrated to the Northeast Kingdom in the 1960s as a back-to-the-earth hippie. "I also had several grants."
From the capital city of Ulan Bator, she trekked through the Gobi for 12 hours with her international crew to a seasonal nomad settlement. In a sense, these folks living there weren't complete strangers. "I was once married to a Mongolian man," Carey points out. "His sister's husband comes from that area, so the people were really welcoming to me."
Her next project? "I'll return to northern Mongolia," Carey says. "I want to do a film about reindeer herders and shamans."