31 Days of Horror and Supernatural Films: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Day 4

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the classic silent film directed by Robert Wiene and called by the late Roger Ebert the first true horror film. The German classic follows the story one Francis tells to an older gentleman about a hypnotist who uses a somnambulist (sleepwalker) to commit acts of murder. One victim is his friends, Alan and the killer goes after his future fiancee Jane. Francis tracks Caligiri to an asylum where he is the director.

The film is probably best known for its striking visuals. Sadly the copy I saw somewhat colored in random shades here and there but it did not do much harm to what is a great looking film. The stage design with its crazy set pieces with sharp edges and twisted angles. The make up work where some look like ghosts. The actors, well, its hard for to me really judge in a silent film. Though based on the way they carried and moved Werner Krauss and Lil Dagover were the best. The film also starred legendary actor Conrad Veidt. Take a look at their wiki pages as well as the directors as they have sections about how Nazism may have effected their career. Dagover stayed a star throughout and despite being one of Hitlers favorite actors and dining with him she continued acting and even did anti-Nazi films afterward. Conrad and Werner fled Germany, Conrad specifically had a Jewish wife. He of course went on to larger success in Hollywood with films like the Thief of Baghdad, Casablanca and the Man Who Laughs where he played the titular character which inspired the creation of the famed Joker of DC Comics. Werner Krauss however supported the Nazi Party, they made him an Ambassador, and when Hitler fell he was banned from acting and forced into a de-Nazification program. I’m a sucker for cinema history or trivia.

Back to the movie-this was the first silent film I’ve seen. I’ve seen some silent shorts but not a feature length film before. It was a it hard for me to focus. I think I’d have been happier if it was shorter. I was not exactly immersed in the actual story though I did find the ending quite strong. As I stated before, its a striking film and beautifully crafted. I am glad I finally watched this. However after 4 days I’m still not blown away by anything I’ve seen. However I have not had a clunker since Day 1.

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About CM Towns

I like comics, wrestling, and other junk.
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