For this, our final Silent Sunday, I am once more digging into the history of German cinema for a delightful treat from 1920. This is The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.
I could go into depth about how this film is a surrealist nightmare that delves into insanity and still causes discomfort with its startling visuals. If you have never seen this film and consider yourself a film connoisseur, you will be glad to watch this. German cinema gave us the horror film, and this is a prime example of how and why. With no real “monster” to speak of this film delivers a deep seated terror that few modern films can surpass.
Click on the cover below to obtain a copy and read below for the official synopsis.
Synopsis: In 1920, one brilliant movie jolted the postwar masses and catapulted the movement known as German Expressionism into film history. That movie was The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a plunge into the mind of insanity that severs all ties with the rational world. Director Robert Wiene and a visionary team of designers crafted a nightmare realm in which light, shadow and substance are abstracted, a world in which a demented doctor and a carnival sleepwalker perpetrate a series of ghastly murders in a small community. This authoritative edition of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a 4K restoration scanned from the (mostly) preserved camera negative at the German Federal Film Archive.
Today, I bring you another silent classic from the age before films could speak. Most people will tell you that German cinema created the horror genre, and I would agree with them in large part. Today’s film Der Golem is a great example of this. The golem is a precursor to Frankenstein (the original story of the golem predates Shelley’s novel, and the film would arrive prior to Karloff by a decade). Released in 1921 this German production covers the infamous story of the creation of the Golem of Prague.
The scene where the creature is brought to life is still one of my favorite in all of cinema. Some of these themes are still relevant today, and the film is a must watch for fans of classic German cinema. You can click on the image below to procure a copy and read on for the synopsis.
Synopsis: Widely recognized as the source of the Frankenstein myth, the ancient Hebrew legend of the Golem provided actor/director Paul Wegener with the substance for one of the most adventurous films of the German silent cinema. Suffering under the tyrannical rule of Rudolf II in 16th century Prague, a Talmudic rabbi (Albert Steinruck) creates a giant warrior (Paul Wegener) to protect the safety of his people. Sculpted of clay and animated by the mysterious secrets of the Cabala, the Golem is a seemingly indestructible juggernaut, performing acts of great heroism, yet equally capable of dreadful violence. When the rabbi’s assistant (Ernst Deutsch) takes control of the Golem and attempts to use him for selfish gain, the lumbering monster runs rampant, abducting the rabbi’s daughter (Lyda Salmonova) and setting fire to the ghetto. With its remarkable creation sequence (a dazzling blend of religion, sorcery and special effects) and the grand scale destruction of its climax, The Golem was one of the greatest achievements of the legendary UFA Studios, and remains and undeniable landmark in the evolution of horror film
Today, I’m at Revfest in Smyrna and hope some of you can drop by and say hi. For those of you keeping up with my monthly roundup of horrors, I offer you a German film from the silent era.
Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages was made to be an actual documentary, but in all honesty, it is a really fun watch for horror fans and history buffs. It is a psuedo-documentary at best and is a lot of fun. Silent film acting is normally large and over the top, but some of the things that they show are almost comical by today’s standards. Still, Haxan is a fun watch and any horror fan should give it a view. Click on the cover below and read on for the synopsis.
Synopsis: This silent docu-horror masterpiece is a study of how superstition and the misunderstanding of diseases and mental illness led to the hysteria of witch-hunts.