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‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,’ Free on Fandor for Halloween

'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,' Free on Fandor for Halloween

Earlier this week, we noted how Rolling Stone’s latest horror list made a good case for why seeking out horror movies you haven’t heard of might make for a scarier Halloween viewing experience. At the same time, though, it’s hard to resist revisiting favorites or, alternatively, seeking out canonical classics that one hasn’t caught up with. With that in mind, Fandor has decided to make one of the earliest and most frightening scary movies available for Halloween.

Robert Wiene’s “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is now streaming in HD on Fandor in a fantastic 4K restoration…for free. All weekend. That’ll leave viewers time to check out one of the most influential films in the German Expressionist movement for their scary movie viewing pleasure. (One horrifying caveat: The movie is unavailable to viewers in the New York metropolitan area, who can see it on the big screen at Film Forum instead.) Fandor has also listed a handful of films that might make good double features with “Caligari,” from another German Expressionist classic (F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu”) or a handful of expressionist-influenced films (Werner Herzog’s “Nosferatu” remake, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s “Vampyr”). 

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is a clear influence not just on most of the horror films that immediately followed it, with its geometric sets and heavy shadows, but on the later films in the expressionist movement. One can see early signs of “Metropolis'” mad scientist Rotwang in “Caligari’s” titular white-haired madman, and the creepy somnambulist Cesare is an early model for not just Boris Karloff’s monster in “Frankenstein,” but the expressive nightmare figures of the silent era like Nosferatu and Lon Chaney’s “The Phantom of the Opera.” And while the film’s ending is now familiar to anyone who’s seen a modern horror film, its apparent tidiness really serves to further undermine our sense of what we can trust. It’s the first truly great horror film, and one worth catching up with (or revisiting) this Halloween.

Also, it inspired one killer “Portlandia” sketch.

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