Public Domain Movie Of The Week: The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari

dr-caligari-peekingThe Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, or of you want to impress your friends with your fluency in German- Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, is often considered to be the first horror movie ever made. It’s debatable as to what the first horror movie actually is, or what constitutes horror for that matter, but most people give it to Caligari. But any debate on that is pretty irrelevant because Dr. Caligari is one heck of a movie.

Told mostly in flashback, the story centers on the evil Dr. Caligari. He travels the countryside wowing people with the predictions of his psychic somnambulist. During one of his shows at a local fair, a man asks the somnambulist when he’ll die. The psychic predicts by dawn of the next day, and by golly, he’s dead the next morning. The town is paralyzed in fear of the unknown murderer, but the dead man’s friends suspect Dr. Caligari is involved. The investigation of the doctor leads to a mental institution which may or may not be run by Caligari.

Dripping with German Expressionism, the movie is a sight to behold. The stark use of light and shadow, much of which was painted onto the floors and backgrounds, and the skewed camera angles and backgrounds give the movie an uneasy, even deranged, feeling that not only makes the movie stylish but also enhances the story to the point that the style becomes part of the story.

Head on over to the Internet Archive to download a copy.

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