Director – Robert Wiene
Cast – Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher, Lil Dagover, Hans Heinrich von Twardowski, Rudolf Lettinger
Release Year – 1920
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This silent film from 1920 is widely considered to be the first “true” horror film. This film is very much an expressionist masterpiece that all true horror fans and silent film fans alike should get a hold of. Not only that, but for you Batman fans our there, the character “The Penguin” was directly modeled after Dr. Caligari in this film(I love trivia).
This film follows Francis who is relating the story to a man in a park about his best friend Alan, and his wife to be Jane and the events that took place after seeing Dr. Caligari at a local fair. Dr. Caligari has on exhibit a “Somnambulist” named Cesare, who can predict the future. When someone asks Cesare when they will die, he tells them, and his predictions come true! Can he really predict the future? Does he murder to convince people he can predict the future? Or is there someone among the town who is committing these murders, and for what purpose? This film will keep you asking yourself these questions as you slowly come to the truth, or what seems to be the truth, and how you must become Caligari!
For the record: A “Somnambulist” is a person who is constantly in a sleep state(sleepwalker) but goes about his/her day like a normal person would. There are some who believe that this film shows the first “zombie” but that is highly inaccurate. Cesare is merely in a sleeplike state, he is not DEAD, which is the main requirement of zombie status. 1923’s “White Zombie” is the first ever zombie flick. Nuff said.
What I loved about this film was how every scene was perfectly executed, it is beautiful. The musical score is also really well done for this film and for the atmosphere that is required. The story is great and very interesting, I am really impressed with how this film was written especially given it was put out in 1920. This film also introduces us to the first ever “twist” ending, which is a shocking one indeed.
If there is anything I do not like about this film is that it is a silent film. I am not a huge fan of silent films, but this was incredibly well done and well…I cant really expect this to NOT be a silent film given how long ago it was put out.
Overall, if you are a fan of horror history or would like to see the origin or horror flicks then you must see this movie. Also, if you are a fan of expressionism then you should watch this as well. Regardless, you will be left impressed(unless you are a moron).