The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Article #17 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 4-1-2001
Posting date: 8-15-2001

A mesmerist controls a somnambulist to do his bidding and to exact revenge for perceived slights.

Anybody who has read a book on the history of the horror film knows about this one; Robert Wiene’s surrealist story of Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) and Cesare, the somnambulist (Conrad Veidt) is famous for its bizarre expressionistic sets. The story is reminiscent of any number of movies in which a mad scientist sends out an obedient monster to take revenge for him. The story begins and ends in an insane asylum.

This is one of those classics I’m more apt to watch dutifully than eagerly, but in all honesty, my copy of the movie is neither from a particularly good print, nor does it have a strong soundtrack (both of which can make an enormous difference when watching a silent movie). Once I get a chance to see it under better conditions, I’ll know whether or not it’s a movie I really enjoy versus one that I admire from a distance.

Postscript: I have since purchased a superior DVD version of this movie, and the clarity of the print does indeed make a world of difference; the backgrounds are simply stunning when seen with clarity. I have yet to watch it all in its entirety, but I anticipate a much more enjoyable experience than I have had with this movie heretofore.


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