A man named Francis relates a story about his best friend Alan and his fiancée Jane. Alan takes him to a fair where they meet Dr. Caligari, who exhibits a somnambulist, Cesare, that can predict the future.
When Alan asks how long he has to live, Cesare says he has until dawn. The prophecy comes to pass, as Alan is murdered, and Cesare is a prime suspect. Cesare creeps into Jane's bedroom and abducts her, running from the townspeople and finally dying of exhaustion.
Meanwhile, the police discover a dummy in Cesare's cabinet, while Caligari flees. Francis tracks Caligari to a mental asylum. He is the director! Or is he?
Werner Krauss ... Dr. Caligari
Conrad Veidt ... Cesare
Friedrich Feher ... Francis (as Friedrich Fehér)
Lil Dagover ... Jane
Hans Heinrich von Twardowski ... Alan (as Hans Heinrich v. Twardowski)
Rudolf Lettinger ... Dr. Olson
Director: Robert Wiene
Codecs: DivX 3 / MP3
Made in 1919/1920, "The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari" was literally years ahead of its time and remains a triumphant accomplishment in the genre of German Expressionism. Remembered mainly for its stunning sets, which featured crooked buildings and twisted landscapes, "Cabinet" also boasts one of the first attempts at a twist ending, something quite new and shocking for its time.
Told mainly from the point of view of Francis, a young man who lives in the small village of Holstenwall, Germany, "Cabinet" tells the tale of murder and madness which seems to accompany the arrival of a carnival. Francis and his best friend Alan go to the carnival and are presented with the sideshow attraction Cesare the Somnambulist, a gaunt and hideous young man who spends his life sleeping in a coffin-like cabinet and seems able to predict the future when awake. Cesare (played by a young Conrad Veidt, who later went on to play the evil Nazi general in Casablanca) informs Alan that he will soon die, and indeed, Alan is found murdered the next morning. Suspicion turns to the eerie somnambulist and his strange keeper, a man called Caligari. As Francis desperately tries to solve the mystery and find his friends killer, it seems that the beautiful young Jane, beloved by both Alan and Francis, has been targeted as the next victim.
This is a genuinely creepy film which delves deep into the mysteries of the abnormal mind...an uncomfortable journey to say the least. Everyone is suspect and, in the end, we must ask ourselves: "who is really the mad one here?"
Subtle and ingenious, we see the world the way an insane person might see it; warped and confused, a nightmarish terrain where nothing makes sense and balance is not to be found.
The impact of this film is still being felt and seen today, and for good reason. It is a shocking, disturbing masterpiece. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
* Producer Erich Pommer wanted to have Fritz Lang as the film's director. Lang was interested, but then decided to work on another film.
* Writer Hans Janowitz wrote the female lead character for his girlfriend Gilda Langer, an actress at the "Residenz-Theater" in Berlin. Unfortunately she died shortly before filming began, and so Lil Dagover got the role.
* The sets were made out of paper, with the shadows painted on the walls.
* Widely considered to be the first true horror film ever made.
* Weeks before the initial release of the film, posters with the tag-line "Du mußt Caligari werden!" ("You have to become Caligari!") where put up in Berlin without the slightest hint that they where promotion for the upcoming movie.
* Writer Hans Janowitz claims to have gotten the idea for the film when he was at a carnival one day. He saw a strange man lurking in the shadows. The next day, he heard that a girl was brutally murdered there. He went to the funeral, and saw the same strange man lurking around. He had no proof that the strange man was the murderer, but he fleshed the whole idea out into his film.
SPOILER: The expressionist styles of the sets in Francis's story were the result of the character's insanity. Fritz Lang suggested that writer Hans Janowitz add an opening scene and a closing scene in a non-expressionistic setting, the garden, to show the difference between normal reality, and the expressionistic reality of the madman Francis. When Robert Wiene came in to direct the film, he followed Lang's suggestion and added the opening and closing scenes to the film.