Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari

  • Directors: Robert Wiene
  • Producers: Rudolf Meinert, Erich Pommer
  • Writers: Hans Janowitz, Carl Mayer
  • Genres: Horror, Thriller
  • Actors: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Lil Dagover, Hans Twardowski

The deranged Dr. Caligari and his faithful sleepwalking Cesare are connected to a series of murders in a German mountain village, Holstenwall. Caligari presents an example of a motion picture “frame story” in which most of the plot is presented as a “flashback”, as told by Francis.

The narrator, Francis, and his friend Alan visit a carnival in the village where they see Dr. Caligari and the somnambulist Cesare, whom the doctor is displaying as an attraction. Caligari brags that Cesare can answer any question he is asked. When Alan asks Cesare how long he has to live, Cesare tells Alan that he will die before dawn tomorrow – a prophecy which is fulfilled.

Francis, along with his betrothed Jane, investigate Caligari and Cesare, which eventually results in Cesare kidnapping Jane. Caligari orders Cesare to kill Jane, but the hypnotized slave refuses after her beauty captivates him. He carries Jane out of her house, leading the townsfolk on a lengthy chase. Cesare falls to his death during the pursuit, and the townsfolk discover that Caligari had created a dummy of Cesare to distract Francis.

Francis discovers that “Caligari” is actually the director of the local insane asylum, and, with the help of his colleagues, discovers that he is obsessed with the story of a monk called Caligari, who, in 1093, in northern Italy used a somnambulist to murder people as a traveling act. After being confronted with the dead Cesare, Caligari reveals his mania and is imprisoned in his asylum.

A “twist ending” reveals that Francis’ flashback is actually his fantasy: he, Jane and Cesare are all inmates of the insane asylum, and the man he says is Caligari is his asylum doctor, who, after this revelation of the source of his patient’s delusion, says that now he will be able to cure Francis.

Der blaue Engel

  • Directors: Josef von Sternberg
  • Producers: Erich Pommer
  • Writers: Heinrich Mann, Carl Zuckmayer, Robert Liebmann, Josef von Sternberg
  • Genres: Drama, Musical
  • Actors: Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich, Kurt Gerron

The Blue Angel follows Emmanuel Rath (Emil Jannings) through a transformation from esteemed educator at the local Gymnasium (college preparatory high school) to a destitute vagrant in pre-World War II Weimar-Germany. Rath’s descent begins when he punishes several of his students for circulating photographs of the beautiful Lola Lola (Marlene Dietrich) the headliner for the local cabaret, The Blue Angel. Hoping to catch the boys at the club itself, Professor Rath goes to the club later that evening and meets his eventual downfall: the lovely Lola herself.

Consumed with desire and determined to remain at Lola’s side, Rath returns to the night club the following evening (to return a pair of panties that were smuggled into his coat by one of his students) and stays the night with her. The next morning, reeling from his night of passion, Rath arrives late to school to find his classroom in chaos and the principal furious with his behavior.

Rath subsequently resigns his position at the academy to marry Lola, but their happiness is short-lived, as they soon fritter away the teacher’s meager savings and Rath is forced to take a position as a clown in Lola’s cabaret troupe to pay the bills. His growing insecurities about Lola’s profession as a “shared woman” eventually reduce him to a mere shell of the man he used to be, consumed by his lust and jealousy. The troupe returns to his hometown, where he is ridiculed and berated by the Blue Angel patrons, the very people he himself used to deride. As Rath performs his last act, he witnesses his wife embrace, and kiss, one of her former lovers, and Rath is enraged to the point of insanity. He attempts to strangle Lola, but is beaten down by the other members of the troupe and locked in a straight jacket.

Later that night, Rath is set free, and makes his way towards his old classroom. Rejected, humiliated, and destitute, he passes away in remorse, clenching the desk from where he once taught.

Metropolis

  • Directors: Fritz Lang
  • Producers: Erich Pommer
  • Writers: Thea von Harbou, Fritz Lang
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Sci-Fi, Thriller
  • Actors: Alfred Abel, Brigitte Helm, Rudolf Klein Rogge

There are multiple versions of Metropolis. The original, longest version remained unseen except for its initial premiere and release in Germany in 1927. Of this version, a quarter of the footage was believed to be permanently lost, but the German paper Die Zeit reported on 2 July 2008 that a film museum in Argentina had turned up what scholars believe to be a print of Metropolis containing the missing footage. The American version, shortened and re-written by Channing Pollock, is the most commonly known and discussed.

Metropolis is set in the year 2027, in the extraordinary Art Deco skyscrapers of a corporate city-state, the metropolis of the title. Society has been divided into two rigid groups: one of planners or thinkers, who live high above the earth in luxury, and another of workers who live underground laboring to sustain the lives of the privileged. The city is run by Johann ‘Joh’ Fredersen (Alfred Abel), whose son Freder (Gustav FrГ¶hlich) becomes infatuated with a beautiful worker woman who ventures to the surface one day. Descending to the machine rooms in pursuit of her, he is shocked to see the workers’ constant toil and exhaustion. An explosion at the enormous “M-Machine” shows him the callous treatment of the workers by the above-ground elite; before the dead and wounded can be taken away, fresh men must be brought in to replace them. He visualizes the M-Machine as Moloch, who consumes a never-ending sacrifice of bodies and lives.

Seeing the damage they have done and believing their children to be dead, the mob turns against Maria and chases her through the surface city streets. In the confusion, the real Maria slips away to the cathedral, while the mob captures the robot and burns her at the stake. Freder is aghast upon seeing this, but he and the workers soon learn that the burned woman was actually the duplicate. Rotwang chases Maria to the roof of the cathedral, with Freder in pursuit and a horrified Fredersen watching from the ground as the two men struggle. Eventually Rotwang falls to his death and Freder and Maria return to the street. Freder then fulfills his role as Mediator (“heart”), bringing Fredersen (the city’s “head”) and Grot (its “hands”) together at last.