This silent masterpiece has been called the first "cult" movie and the first horror film of genuine quality and substance. A young student, Francis, (Freidrich Feher) encounters evil magician, Dr. Caligari (Werner Kraus), at a county fair. Caligari's "act" consists of waking a frightening somnambulist, Cesare, from the coffin where, it is claimed, he has lain asleep for years. When Francis' best friend is murdered and a killing spree erupts in the small village, he suspects that Caligari is using Cesare to commit the ghastly crimes. When Cesare is sent to murder the student's fiance, Joan (Lil Dagover), he is so smitten with her beauty that he abducts her instead. Francis tracks Caligari to a nearby insane asylum where he is horrified to learn that the doctor is not an inmate but the director of the institution! The surprise ending is as shocking and perplexing today as it was when originally released.
Set designer Hermann Warm enlisted Walter Reimann and Walter Roehrig, fellow members of Berlin's expressionist Der Sturm group, to act as art directors. They created the unprecedented look of the sets, costumes and makeup to reflect the mind of a madman. The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari demonstrated to all future filmakers that psychological horror could equal or exceed the effects of physical shocks. This thought-provoking film is a must-see for all who appreciate great movies.
A milestone of the silent film era and one of the first "art films" to gain international acclaim, this eerie German classic from 1919 remains the most prominent example of German expressionism in the emerging art of the cinema. Stylistically, the look of the film's painted sets--distorted perspectives, sharp angles, twisted architecture--was designed to reflect (or express) the splintered psychology of its title character, a sinister figure who uses a lanky somnambulist (Conrad Veidt) as a circus attraction. But when Caligari and his sleepwalker are suspected of murder, their novelty act is surrounded by more supernatural implications. With its mad-doctor scenario, striking visuals, and a haunting, zombie-like character at its center, Caligari was one of the first horror films to reach an international audience, sending shock waves through artistic circles and serving as a strong influence on the classic horror films of the 1920s, '30s, and beyond. It's a museum piece today, of interest more for its historical importance, but Caligari still casts a considerable spell. --Jeff Shannon
Film Collectors & Archivists: Alpha Video is actively looking for rare and
unusual pre-1943 motion pictures, in good condition, from Monogram, PRC,
Tiffany, Chesterfield, and other independent studios for release on DVD. We
are also interested in TV shows from the early 1950s. Share your passion
for films with a large audience.
Let us know what you have.