The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Directed by Robert Wiene
Starring: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher
When Dr. Caligari comes into town with the carnival he’s got more than a magic trick to show the people. With him is his somnambulist Cesare, who has the ability to predict the time a person will die. His first prediction is the death of the young Alan by the coming morning. When Alan turns up murdered, the whole town beings the search for the killer. As event continue, Alan’s friend Francis begins to realize that Dr. Caligari and Cesare might not be who they say they are.
Early German cinema is the homeland of horror films. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is one of the earliest examples of this genre. Director Robert Weine (The Hands of Orlac) was an early pioneer of German Expressionism in film. This movie stands as his greatest known work, and a great example of the skill the early German filmmakers had. His cast included a number of good German actors including Werner Krauss, the German character actor had many villainous roles throughout his career. Another member of the cast was Conrad Veidt (The Thief of Bhagdad) who was later an important part of the cast of Casablanca.
Silent film requires a very compelling story and unique visuals to keep me interested. This movie happens to have both. The surreal scenery throughout the film works perfectly with the fantastic story presented. silent film stars have to rely on their bodies and their faces to do the work, and this was a great example of how this is done successfully. The resulting film is one that has a lot of value, even now in the age of technology. It’s a great lesson in how to make a horror film since it combines horror alongside mystery and intrigue.
The weakness of this movie is the meandering pace. This is partially due to the improvised music. It’s unfortunate that I wasn’t able to view the film with the original music. The restored copies available have a terrible score that becomes distracting.
This isn’t a movie most people will rush out to see. Still, if you’re able to check this out I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The acting is fun to watch, and the visuals are incredible. If you love horror films you need to see this. It’s an important piece of movie history that I would recommend to anyone. I give this one 4.7 out of 5 stars.