The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
October 27, 2022 9:48 AM - Subscribe

At a carnival in Germany, Francis (Friedrich Feher) and his friend Alan (Rudolf Lettinger) encounter the crazed Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss). The men see Caligari showing off his somnambulist, Cesare (Conrad Veidt), a hypnotized man who the doctor claims can see into the future. Shockingly, Cesare then predicts Alan's death, and by morning his chilling prophecy has come true -- making Cesare the prime suspect. However, is Cesare guilty, or is the doctor controlling him?

Directed by Robert Wiene. Written by Hans Janowitz, Carl Mayer.

96% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Since it's public domain at this point, it's streaming nearly everywhere. JustWatch listing. As ever, you tend to get a better quality version if you go to conscientious folks like Shudder, Arrow, Hoopla, or Kanopy.
posted by DirtyOldTown (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My favorite factoid about this movie is that Weimar-era censors prohibited stories that undermined authority figures. So the ending of this film had to be changed to show that it was all the delusion of a madman, since otherwise the asylum director would be portrayed as a villain.
posted by kewb at 10:49 AM on October 27, 2022

And, evidently, it is a factoid, not a fact; the story changes were apparently made by the studio or possibly from a suggestion by Fritz Lang!
posted by kewb at 10:54 AM on October 27, 2022

Oh! I saw this at my local museum, with live accompaniment on a historic pipe organ

It was fan tastic!
posted by rebent at 1:04 PM on October 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Mrs. Example and I once were lucky enough to see this at our local church hall (which would run occasional themed film festivals). As with Nosferatu, which we saw at the same hall, it was accompanied by a live accordion player who had the most high-tech instrument I've ever seen. It really added a fantastic element to the whole thing.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:27 PM on October 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Conrad Veidt is fantastic. Catch "The Man who Laughs" if you can find it.
posted by acrasis at 4:20 PM on October 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

This was the first silent movie I saw in a theater with live accompaniment. It was amazing. The Crow, Edward Scissorhands, and Kylo Ren all owe Conrade for inventing their look.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:03 PM on October 27, 2022

How much more German Expressionist can you get than this movie? None. None more German Expressionist.

I'd never seen the comment about the framing convention. It was a twist but not one that felt tacked on to me. It was just one more reason to mistrust reality, your senses, your sanity.

Reading Wikipedia it seems like a whole lot of ink has been spilled on that aspect, and its implications for the "meaning" of the film, but I'm not sure if that's representative or just the specific concerns of the wiki editors?
posted by mark k at 9:19 PM on October 27, 2022 [3 favorites]

I saw this with a raucous Eastern European Folk ensemble providing the soundtrack. They even made a theme song, whose lyrics went something like:

I am Caligari!
I am very scary!
With my cabinet
I will get you yet!
Now here’s the twist:
There’s a somnambulist!

It was actually pretty fun. Later, the theater ran The Passion of Joan of Arc with a screaming guitar duo that was something to behold.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:58 PM on October 27, 2022

Krauss is magnificent in this, which is too bad because he was a rabid antisemite, a literal Nazi, and appeared in the grotesque Jud Süß. It’s always a pain to watch him in this, because he oozes corruption, yet Caligari was a nice fellow compared to the actual Krauss.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:04 AM on October 28, 2022

Lastly, there’s a fun horror anthology riffing on Caligari: The Madness of Dr. Caligari Edited by the late and lamented Joseph Pulver.

In the interests of full disclosure, I’m friends with the publisher, but it’s a really good anthology.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:10 AM on October 28, 2022

Conrad Veidt is fantastic. Catch "The Man who Laughs" if you can find it.

Veidt may be best known for playing Major Strasser in Casablanca. His wife was Jewish and the couple would later flee Nazi Germany, first to England, then to the United States, where he insisted on playing villainous Nazis to make the regime look bad.
posted by Gelatin at 4:28 AM on October 28, 2022 [3 favorites]

Do you... like 80's new wave synths? Do you like songs about movies with lyrics that give extremely literal recountings of the source material? Then you are in for a treat, my friend. Das Kabinette - The Cabinet
posted by phooky at 6:30 PM on October 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

We are seeing it tonight with live organ player. Actuallt we got to go! Starts soon!
posted by vrakatar at 3:13 PM on October 30, 2022 [3 favorites]

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