The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Director: Robert Weine
Screenwriters: Hans Janowitz, Carl Mayer
Stars: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher, Lil Dagover
The horror film as we know it can be traced back to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the 1920 German silent film directed by Robert Wiene. Before the film's monster, the somnambulist Cesare, even shows up, Caligari is an excellent demonstration of off-kilter creepiness, an effect achieved by Wiene through his decision to have all of the sets abstractly designed as dreamscapes populated by jagged, fantastical looking buildings.
But then Caligari, one of cinema's great mad doctors, sends his sleeping, hypnotically controlled man-servant Cesare out on the town to abduct the beautiful Jane Olsen (Lil Dagover). That's when Wiene's film reaches its apex of pure horror, and the degree to which The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has been influential amongst the genre's directors becomes immeasurable. —MB