The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)


The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is the oldest film listed in the little book I got for Christmas (101 Horror Movies) and so far has been my least favorite.

The story is fairly simplistic, a fair arrives in town, and two friends, in love with the same woman go to see a sideshow put on by Dr. Caligari. Contained within the title’s cabinet is a somnambulist, who in his deep sleep state, according to Caligari, knows all both past and future.

In this case, he predicts the imminent death of one of the friends Allen.

But Allen isn’t the only one to die, a rash of murders have hit the town, leaving the police baffled, and chasing the wrong suspect.

As Francis, the surviving friend, struggles to save his lady-love, from the clutches of Caligari, and Cesare, the cadaverous cabinet dweller, we delve into the depths of obsession to the cusp of madness.

This German silent film was shot entirely on stage, but in this case that is a benefit, as all the sets, truly the highlight of the film, are expressionist, tilted buildings and windows, lines askew, shadows and designs painted on walls, roadways, and rooftops, which gives the entire film a dream-like quality.

I liked the design of the film more than the film itself, and was hoping for just a little more when Francis begins to investigate the malignant force that is Caligari.

Still, taking into account this the film itself was made in 1919, just after the first world war, it is quite an accomplishment.

So, as of yet, this handy little book is yet to steer me wrong!

Have you seen any of these classics? What are your thoughts?

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