Module 6: Song at Midnight (1937)

The film:

A horror-musical! Nosferatu (1922) and Phantom of the Opera (1925) inspired Song at Midnight’s premise and genre atmospherics, but this film has a lot more going on, including a convoluted revolutionary backstory for the maimed “phantom” and a violent love triangle. The marketing campaign claimed that the film scared a child to death.

Yeban gesheng
Director: Ma-Xu Weibang
Studio: Xinhua
Music: Sinn Sing Hoi (Xian Xinghai)
Lyrics: Tian Han
Cast: Hu Ping, Jin Shan, Zhou Wenzhu, Shi Chao, Xu Manli, Gu Menghe, Wang Weiyi
English subtitles translated by Christopher Rea

Video lecture 1:

17 minutes

Video lecture 2:

12 minutes

This module is under construction.

Learn more:

Scenes from Song at Midnight

An animated studio logo establishes the ambiance of the film:

“Song at Midnight” theme song:

The Angel Theatrical Troupe arrives at the theater in the rain:

The Angel Theatrical Troupe is given a tour of the abandoned theater by its ancient caretaker:

Sun Xiao’ou sings “Love on the Yellow River”:

Sun Xiao’ou encounters a mysterious hooded figure in the tower room of the theater:

The climactic unveiling of Song Danping’s disfigurement:

A mob chases Song Danping to his death:

Comparisons with other films

Compare the scenes of a woman in white (Xia) on a balcony in Song at Midnight with Ellen’s sleepwalking scene from Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922):

Compare the scene of Xia awakening from her dream at the end of Song at Midnight with Ellen’s awakening after the death of the vampire in Nosferatu:

The first unveiling of the disfigured man occurs precisely at the midpoint of both Song at Midnight and one of its key intertexts, The Phantom of the Opera (1925), starring Lon Chaney. Here is the unveiling scene in Phantom:

Gu Menghe, who plays the dastardly villain Tang Jun in Song at Midnight, appeared in a comic role a couple years earlier in Yuan Muzhi’s City Scenes (1935):

Xinhua Studio, which produced Song at Midnight, during the war was incorporated into S.K. Chang’s (Zhang Shankun) new Hwa Cheng Studio, which produced another hit film featuring disguise and transformation, Hua Mu Lan (1939):

Jin Shan, who plays Song Danping in Song at Midnight, went on to direct the civil war-era masterpiece, Along the Sungari River (1947).