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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.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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...
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Francis (as Friedrich Fehér)
...
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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:

Dr. Caligari and his mysterious slave - the black and white phantom who lives in a cabinet and goes forth in his sleep to do his master's bidding. the weirdest characters ever seen on the screen and the most daringly different picture ever seen. See more »


Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

19 March 1921 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari  »

Box Office

Budget:

$18,000 (estimated)
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Color:

(tinted)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Original German censorship certificate 'Jugendverbot' delivered in March 1920. 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.
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Connections

Referenced in United States of Tara: Aftermath (2009) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Caligari: A creepy, distorted gem of the silent era...
4 April 2000 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

Like so many of the films from the silent era, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari gets overlooked (if you can even find it!) for big budget duds, and runny romantic comedies. Directors of the period like Griffith, Lang, Eisenstien, and Caligari's Wiene, are never given the credit they deserve. And if credit is given, it is in small cultish circles in various pockets around the world.

The set design here is amazing, not a single right angle can be found in any one of the sets. This may not only apply to the disjointed and distorted characters in the film, but also the state of Germany at the time. After all, the film was made in the dark ages in Germany between WWI and WWII. This point is validated by Siegfried Kracauer, with his notion of how the main character of Dr. Caligari can be easily interpreted to Hitler, and vice versa. Both controlled subjects with a form of "brainwashing", both were upset with current forms of society and government, and both were masters of deception. In a period where Germans were looking for direction, and let's face it, authority as well, Dr. Caligari embodied it fully.

In the area of the players, all the names in the film turn out a literally "speechless" performance. Dagover, Krauß, and especially Veidt as Cesare (pronounced Chez-a-ray) are excellent in the use of gestures and motion to get their point across without using words. The camera, stationary as in most early features, uses the mise-en-scene effectively, letting us identify with characters such as Francis and Jane, and disjointing us from Caligari, and the Criminal.

The use of lines and stripes, not only in the sets but in small places like in the good doctor's hair and on his gloves, adds to the telling of the character. Colour tints of the B&W film also play a special part in bringing the whole film together. An amazing sequence where Caligari reveals his true madness, pits Caligari stumbling through the unequal streets of Germany while being haunted by textual ramblings written in the air. A marvelous achievement for it's time. And it adds so much.

The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari has changed the way I look at horror films, and even films in general. I urge anyone reading this to pick up this film. The DVD offering is utterly fantastic with the restored print, an audio essay of the film, and production notes. Bypass the overblown "motion picture events of the year", and pick up Caligari, quite possible the greatest motion picture event in the history of motion pictures.


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