The Ultimate Silent Horror

Before we joined the TV generation Saturday nights often involved a screening of old silent movies on my father’s 9.5mm projector. They were hired or occasionally purchased from a shop somewhere around the Mile End Road in London. The films varied from cartoons, Silly Symphonies and Merry Melodies, through classic silent comedy stars such as Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin, to one film that left a lasting impression on me, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

I have always considered this to be the ultimate horror movie. The skewed perspectives of the scenery, the high contrast in the lighting and the pallor of the actors give it a dream like quality. It’s a nightmare where you don’t wake up if you pinch yourself. I must have first seen this film at about 6 or 7 years old, and have sat through the three reels many times, each experience as dramatic and physical as the very first.

Watched in silence in a dark room with only the clatter of the projector to accompany the unfolding story, the atmosphere can become very oppressive. The horror pervades every aspect of the film and acts as a catalyst to the darker side of our imagination. A re-mastered version was released on video some years ago. Watching the digitally enhanced film with the traditional musical accompaniment brought back all those child hood memories. If you like horror, this is 70 minutes of hell.

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