Friday, July 31, 2015

Silent Horror: The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (1920)




From 1920, older than almost every surviving feature length horror film, this is German Expressionism in film at it's most horrific and raw state.  It gives, actually a glimpse that film was the real driving force behind the artistic (and beyond many would argue) movement--not merely a remnant of German Romanticism, but not quite "brutal" as in "brutal architecture" became later in the 20th century.  There was, of course, the brutality of the Great War, and German Expressionism first found it's way into the visual by way of painting, but with the invention of longer forms of reels of film came the possibility of putting that into motion (sort of).  Director Weine hired two German Expressionist painters to paint the sets for the film:  Herman Warm and Walter Reimann, but it is the grotesque carnival in living pictures that makes the film hard to get out of the mind.  This was certainly a very big influence on Lang's Metropolis.  For that matter, it had to be an influence on Nosferatu as well, in the sense that Max Schreck who plays Orlok seems to have used many of the moves of the Ceasare the somnambulist (Konrad Veidt) in his vampiric movements.  There is also something of the comic book that comes to mind in this film.  The title cards to splashed and splintered, and shove their way onto the screen (see the Sin City movies--only this is better). This is truly a weird one, in both the English meaning of the word and the German as well.  Of course, something this grotesque is not going to get past people like Rob Zombie, so below is an embed of "Living Dead Girl"--his version of The Cabinet.  


Silent Horror: Frankenstein (1910)




The above is the complete film restored with some really good and appropriate music, for the original that has been the out on DVD for many years now see below.  This is the very first Frankenstein film, and was one of the only horror movies ever produced by the Edison film production machine--a group that could easily hold the title for invention of the motion picture.



Silent Horror: Haxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages




This is an absolute early horror classic--much in the same vein as Nosferatu, only much more tabu (taboo) and underground--more akin in it's surreal and occultic nature to The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari than it's famous Murnau vampire cousin, also a film from 1922.  Also, many people think this is a German film; in fact, it is Swedish.  One of my all time favorites.  Word about the print here.  It's Criterion Collection--restored to full glory!!  The music is terrible.  So I am viewing it with the soundtrack to Dario Argento's classic 1975 witch horror Suspiria by goblin--very effective!  

Silent Horror (with some Comedy): The Haunted House (1921)


Silent Horror: Nosferatu (1922)






F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu is probably the most well known silent horror movie in this day and age, probably one the most famous and consistently watched silent films, ever, no matter the genre (which almost didn't happen as the widow of Bram Stoker almost succeeded in getting the film destroyed altogether). Of course, at the time of it's release, it was recognized as being a part of the German Expressionist movement, of which film was only a part.  It like, "Les Vampires" seven years before it, utilizes tinted still frames for emotional emphasis.  I first saw this when I was a kid in black and white and was completely blown away when I first saw a fully restored copy as an adult as a result of the tinting.  Makes that carriage ride 10 times more terrifying!!




















Silent Horror: Melies House Of The Devil (1896)


Silent Horror: Les Vampires--The Severed Head (1915)






This is the first episode of a ten part French crime serial (that is also counted as an early horror because of the all the graphic violence alluded to, and some infamous "bat costume" scenes) from 1915, which almost didn't survive.  The entire ten parts bring the total running time to just about 400 minutes even.  So it's quite the crime adventure--the fact that the first episode is entitled "The Severed Head" gives a glimpse of the criminal horrors to come.  It relies heavily on variously coloured tinted still frames to manipulate the mood of the film:  Police Station--warm sepia, criminal lair--night blue outdoor shots--bright green, etc.  This does not refer to the classic vampire as we've come to know them in film (such as Nosferatu).  This "vampire" or "vamp" for short is referring to a brilliant & very brutal female criminal mastermind that "vampirises" by living a comfortable life off of her crimes.  This, to my knowledge, is the first time the female characterization of the "vamp" was committed to film.  It later became all the rage in the late 1910's & 1920's and the most recognizable of the Vamps is Jewish American actress Theda Bara--some of whose films were actually banned (most have not survived unfortunately). All ten of the episodes can viewed online.








Below Signed Publicity Still Of Bara:

Now that's "Vampy!"