Sinister Cinema: Caligari

For Autograph  Hound Super-Sunday what other Halloween offerings could Brian Leno pull from the crypt? You just know he’s got an iron-bound door in the wall of a sub-basement, and over the door to that crypt the stark name: John Hancock

Looks as if today he’s hauling out signatures from German silents, beginning with The Cabinet of Dr. CaligariCaligari, a flat-out masterpiece of world cinema.

Take it away, Brian:

Conrad Veidt is internationally known for being cast as Major Strasser in Casablanca (1942). It’s one of the great movies, no doubt about it.

But long before running into Humphrey Bogart, Veidt made a name for himself in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) as Cesare, the somnambulistic killer. He also appeared in The Man Who Laughs (1928), and his huge never-ending grin in that movie was perhaps an inspiration for Batman’s deadly foe, the Joker.

Dying at the age of 50, Veidt is a collectible, and somewhat rare, signature — a good catch for the autograph hunter.

Lil Dagover is perhaps not a name that rolls off the tongue when speaking of Halloween movies, but she was in one of the great silent ones. Who can forget the scene when Cesare, portrayed by Conrad Veidt, steals into her bedroom, knife drawn, and stands over her sleeping body?

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), a silent masterpiece, is perhaps not viewed as much today, as it would seem attention spans of the average filmgoer are getting shorter and movies without sound are no longer in favor.

But find a good copy of the movie and settle back for an hour or so. It’s worth it.

Ms. Dagover lived to be 92, so her signature is not too rare, and it’ll probably cost less than what some people spend on Halloween candy.

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