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DVD review: 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari'

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'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari'


'Nosferatu', 'Metropolis' and a good deal of the Charlie Chaplin/Harold Lloyd films get the majority of respect when one fondly lists the greatest silent films of all time.

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Something that can be lost in the shuffle, but that is known by many who hold classic horror in high regard is 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.'

Francis (Friedrich Fehér) tells a story to his elderly companion after he sees a fair, yet distant young woman named Jane (Lil Dagover) pass by.

Francis and his friend Alan (Hans Heinrich von Twardowski) had been competing for the affection of Jane years ago. At a carnival, they meet Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) and a somnambulist, Cesare (Conrad Veidt) at a show. Cesare can predict the future and Alan asks when he will die, to which Cesare replies with the fact that he shall die at dawn. This comes to be. Suspiciously enough, there have been many other violent murders like this.

Let's not say anything else about the plot because this is a short movie, there isn't THAT much to it and there is a twist at the end (one of this first films that made use of this).

Considering the year and the available technology, there are some positively arresting visuals. The set pieces and design probably the film's greatest strengths. Expect odd angles to make up most of the backgrounds. Even the dialog screens are written in a strange font. This is a cinematic example of something German Expressionism. Those who look enough will see the wide influence the film has had across many mediums.

Actors' makeup seems well-suited to the stage but is also enhanced by the black and white cinematography. Cesare especially has a memorable look.

Special features include: nothing except for a slightly cleaned up transfer.

'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' is an important piece of film history that bears viewing for the sake of education. It's easier to admire as a piece of art than to truly sit down for an entertaining movie.

Many people will be turned off by the idea of watching an old, silent film. Those who do give it a chance will be treated to something that was a tremendous technical achievement at the time and that to hint at what could be possible in the decades that followed.

Not rated 71 minutes 1921


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