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The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (original title)
Unrated | | Fantasy, Horror, Mystery | 19 March 1921 (USA)
Hypnotist Dr. Caligari uses a somnambulist, Cesare, to commit murders.



(story and screen play by), (story and screen play by)
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Complete credited cast:
Francis (as Friedrich Fehér)
Hans Heinrich von Twardowski ...
Alan (as Hans Heinrich v. Twardowski)
Rudolf Lettinger ...


Francis, a young man, recalls in his memory the horrible experiences he and his fiancée Jane recently went through. It is the annual fair in Holstenwall. Francis and his friend Alan visit The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, an exhibit where the mysterious doctor shows the somnambulist Cesare, and awakens him for some moments from his death-like sleep. When Alan asks Cesare about his future, Cesare answers that he will die before dawn. The next morning Alan is found dead. Francis suspects Cesare of being the murderer, and starts spying on him and Dr. Caligari. The following night Cesare is going to stab Jane in her bed, but softens when he sees the beautiful woman, and instead of committing another murder, he abducts her. Jane's father awakens because of the noise, and he and some servants follow the fleeing Cesare. When Cesare cannot outrun his pursuers anymore, he gently places Jane down on the ground, and runs away. Francis and the police investigate the caravan of Dr. Caligari, but the ... Written by Maths Jesperson {maths.jesperson1@comhem.se}

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Du mußt Caligari werden See more »


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

19 March 1921 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari  »

Box Office


$18,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


(video) | (DVD)

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Writer Hans Janowitz wrote the female lead character for his girlfriend Gilda Langer, an actress at the "Residenz-Theater" in Berlin, but it was Lil Dagover who finally got the role. See more »


There is an inconsistent positioning during the struggle on the bed between Cesare and Jane. See more »


[first lines]
Man in garden: Spirits surround us on every side... they have driven me from hearth and home, from wife and child.
See more »


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User Reviews

Expressionism At Its Finest
6 July 2004 | by (Boerne, TX) – See all my reviews

The original message of this film is fairly pedestrian (an outcry against the weak authority in Germany at the time), although the political intrigue surrounding the production led to a fascinating framing story which re-established "the authorities," and in turn made the UFA happy enough to distribute the film. This suggests that in its own time the political message of the film was fairly powerful, but compared to the work done in such films as The Golem, Nosferatu, and Metropolis it is not so far-reaching.

What sets this film apart from its contemporaries is its absolute commitment to the expressionist movement. Mutated sets, heavy dark/light makeup, light and shadow, and a Gothic storyline are classic expressionism. The photography is beautiful and so crisp that it creates an eerie sense that this hellish scene is actually the real world, and that our everyday lives are the delusional Technicolor dream of a madman.

While there are many better movies made in this period, I feel that this one is the pinnacle of the imagery that is characteristic of the expressionist art form. It is an absolute must-see for anyone who is interested in the Expressionist movement.

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