Film
CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, THE (1920)
, Dir.
CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, THE (1920)

Although there are plenty of dark films that predate it, CALIGARI remains the undisputed king of silent era horror. I’d go so far as to place this and CITIZEN KANE as the two most influential films in the entire history of cinema.  The trailblazing expressionistic set design, the stunning chiaroscuro, the popularization of the twist ending, the sensibilities that paved the way for not every horror film to follow but also the entire film noir genre; these all make CALIGARI a shoo-in for just about any typical top 100 cinema list.  What keeps it on my desert-island essential favorite list is that to this day it genuinely entertains.  CALIGARI remains nearly 100 years later a wickedly creepy and disturbing film.  I cannot even fathom how freaked out audiences must have been in 1920 when confronted with the homicidal Somnambulist Cesare (Conrad Veidt) and his crazy world.  It isn’t just his intense gaze and emaciated frame stretched across consistently wild and off-kilter backdrops that gets under the skin. Every frame of this movie seems to be ripped straight from a criminally disturbed mind.   As I face the solitude of my own insanity-inducing desert-island seclusion (armed only with my 100 essential favorite films), I’ll want CALIGARI along as a kindred spirit. (Tim League)

Included on Programmers Top 100