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The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
"Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari." (original title)

 -  Horror  -  19 March 1921 (USA)
8.1
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 31,391 users  
Reviews: 166 user | 146 critic

Dr. Caligari's somnambulist, Cesare, and his deadly predictions.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Friedrich Feher ...
Francis (as Friedrich Fehér)
...
Hans Heinrich von Twardowski ...
Alan (as Hans Heinrich v. Twardowski)
Rudolf Lettinger ...
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

A THRILLING FANTASTIC PHOTO-PLAY See more »

Genres:

Horror

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Release Date:

19 March 1921 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari  »

Box Office

Budget:

$18,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

(video) | (DVD)

Sound Mix:

Color:

(tinted)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Made before "horror" was a designated genre, this is sometimes cited as the first true horror film (although films with elements of the macabre were certainly made earlier). See more »

Goofs

When Alan and Francis part company, they are initially right next to each other, but then at arm's reach. See more »

Quotes

[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 »

Connections

Referenced in Inventura (1981) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Discovering Silent Film...
27 March 2002 | by (Claremont, NH) – See all my reviews

It struck me last night that I've never seen a serious silent film. Everyone's seen a silent comedy: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, the Keystone Cops... They've all been immortalized in the minds of every film viewer, and I enjoy them as much as anyone. But it seems a strange and almost disrespectful lack to never have seen anything but comedy; so many silent films were created, and the only ones I've seen starred waddling tramps.

It was partially for that reason that I rented this movie. I had read about it on a film review site (the name of which escapes my memory) and decided it was worth the half-hour drive to the video store. The basic premise is that of a man relating a story that happened to him and his friends - their unnerving discovery of a crazed mountebank, Dr. Caligari, and his prophetic sleepwalker. It follows a series of murders and growing madness, keeping you in constant suspense and confusion until the very last scene.

There's a period of adjustment when watching it - unfortunately necessary for a modern audience. The titles seem too slow. The camera seems to hold on scenes too long. The makeup on the actors' faces seem ghostly and horrible - even on the hero.

But before long, the movie has you in its grip. You spend time staring at the architecture - buildings, doors, and windows that would have been funny in a Dr. Seuss book. In the film, they make you uneasy. The whole atmosphere is of a world gone wrong; like a dream worthy of Salvador Dalí. Nothing is square or straight. The buildings loom in on you; windows sweep upward, slanted or curved; doors are obscenely angled holes beckoning you to enter and be trapped inside.

Throughout, the story defies expectations. Small plot twists confuse and mislead you until the final surprise, completely tearing down everything you thought the movie was about. Strange shadows and shots from inside alleys paint the film's world as something terrible, never allowing you a normal look at the village, never allowing you to enjoy the quaintness of it. Through it all, the grinning, hunched figure of Dr. Caligari hangs in your mind, pushing out rational thought.

The movie is well worth your time; there's a certain pleasure in trying to capture the feeling of terror an early audience, unaccustomed to the visual effects we see every day, would have had the first time they saw this movie. It's an intellectual terror in the grand old style, giving you the same thrill you get from reading Frankenstein or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. At the risk of sounding cliché: two thumbs up!


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