The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1920 film)

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Scene from The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1920 film)...


"You must become Caligari!" Hypnotist Dr. Caligari uses a somnambulist, Cesare, to commit murders in this silent classic of the bizarre German Expressionist art film movement.

The film was remade a few times: The Cabinet of Caligari (1962 film), Dr. Caligari (1989 film), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (2005 film)....


  • Release Date: 1920
  • Country/Language: German, silent (originally with German title cards)
  • Genres/Technical: Mystery, Thriller, Fantasy, Horror, Art/Experimental, silent, black-and-white
  • Runtime: 1 hr 20 min
  • Starring: Conrad Veidt, Werner Krauss, Friedrich Feher, Rudolf Lettinger
  • Director: Robert Wiene
  • Writer: Carl Mayer and Hans Janowitz (story and screenplay)
  • Producer/Production Co: Decla-Bioscop AG
  • View Film: (link)


MPAA Ratings

  • Rated: (not rated) (equivalent of a modern G or PG for mild Violence)

Tentacle Ratings

A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:

  • S____ (One Tentacle: Debateably Lovecraftian; has almost no direct connection to Lovecraft's work)

This horror film was contemporary with Lovecraft, and he expressed dismay at not being able to see it because, in his words, "it was by all accounts the best fantastic cinema ever produced." Not very Lovecraftian, though the basic plot could perhaps be easily adapted into a Call of Cthulhu scenario; the bizarre sets, props, and costumes, as well as the madhouse setting might, at a stretch, be considered "Lovecraftian" elements.

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.


Review Links:

  • H.P. Lovecraft: "...By all accounts the best fantastic cinema ever produced."


 Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)

At a carnival in Germany, Francis and his friend Alan encounter the crazed Dr. Caligari. The men see Caligari showing off his somnambulist, Cesare, 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?


Comments, Trivia, Dedication

  • This film, dating to a time before the formalization of the horror genre, is today sometimes considered "the first true horror film".
  • The framing story was added to help make the bizarre film more commercially viable.
  • The striking visual style of this film was as much a practical consideration as an artistic statement: limited by a low budget and post-war shortages and rationing, the sets were constructed from inexpensive paper, with lights and shadows painted on to make better use of limited stage space and avoid expensive lighting.
  • Quote, opening line: "Spirits surround us on every side... they have driven me from hearth and home, from wife and child."
  • Quote, Doctor Caligari: "I must know everything. I must penetrate the heart of his secret! I must become Caligari!"

Associated Mythos Elements

  • film: the screenplay a (mostly) unrelated film with a similar plot twist, The Cabinet of Caligari (1962 film), was written by Robert Bloch
  • location: The Holstenwall Carnival
  • TO DO

Keeper Notes