The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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Alan: How long shall I live?
Cesare: Your time is short. You die at dawn.


Silent expressionism horror film made in 1920 Germany, starring Werner Krauss as the titular mad doctor and Conrad Veidt (the bad guy from Casablanca... oh, and the original Joker) as the fortune-telling sleepwalker Cesare, who lives inside the cabinet.

The film was made to metaphorically express the dangers of hospitals in World War I when "malingering" soldiers were confined in hospitals under their manipulative doctors. It was also based in the film scriptwriters Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer's experiences during the war.

This film is best-known for its extremely messed-up set design: all the angles are crooked, the shadows are painted onto the sets, and it's all made out of paper. More notably, some sets are twisted versions of World War I battlefields.

This movie is frequently homaged by music videos (see Rob Zombie's "Living Dead Girl" as well as "Otherside" of the Red Hot Chili Peppers). In 2005, it received an indie remake starring Doug Jones, of Pan's Labyrinth fame, which digitally imposed the new actors onto the original set.

In addition to being the first psychological thriller and one of the first actual horror films ever made, this movie also received one of the first-ever Viral Marketing campaigns for a movie: before its premiere, German streets were plastered with posters that read "Du mußt Caligari werden!" ("You must become Caligari!"), without telling you anything about the fact that they tied in to a movie.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was tremendously influential in cinematic history, as all the Trope Maker examples below attest. It is in the public domain and may be viewed in its entirety at YouTube, or downloaded from the Internet Archive.

Tropes used in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari include: