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February 26, 1920: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari) is released.

This highly influential silent film, directed by Robert Wiene, was one of the early works of the short-lived creative movement known as German Expressionism and one of the finest and most famous examples of early horror cinema. German Expressionism emerged at the end of World War I, and, true to its name, it (with regard to film, at least) was a uniquely German style, although its influence on later films and entire genres, even, was far-reaching.

With its abstract, often surreal sets, stylized and distinctive look, and notable twist ending, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari introduced, along with other classic pieces of German Expressionist horror - including The Golem (1920) and Nosferatu (1922)- classic elements of horror cinema still in use today, down to the gait of Conrad Veidt’s Cesare. When the NSDAP rose to power in the early 1930s, they promoted their own styles of art and film, and their preferred styles were traditional, conservative, classical styles, nothing like the avante-garde movements of 1920s Germany. Experimentation - which characterized German Expressionism - had no place in the culture of the Third Reich, so many of the filmmakers who had worked in these styles during the Weimar era soon left Germany for France and for Hollywood, where their work could - and did, eventually - heavily impact mainstream cinema.

Full film online.

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