Just by the headline alone, you old school horror fans know what this post is about. If you have no idea what it means, then allow me to introduce you to Cesare from German expressionist masterpiece, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920).
Cesare (Conrad Veidt) is a somnambulist clad in a black turtleneck sweater, tights, and a haircut that reminds one of Moe from the Three Stooges. He is kept in a large, rickety old cabinet and is only brought out during mealtimes, a carnival sideshow hosted by Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss)…and to commit murder in the middle of the night.
His story is told in a flashback by a young man named Francis (Friedrich Ferér) whose life was turned upside down by the murdering sleepwalker. His girlfriend Jane, Jane’s father, and his best friend Alan (Hans Heinrich von Twardowski) were all victims of the sleepwalker sadist. Cesare stabbed Alan and Jane’s father to death, and broke into Jane’s bedroom with a knife to get rid of her, too, but decided instead to kidnap her and drag her to the rooftops.
Can the viewer really trust anything that the grieving Francis recalls about the events that he insists terrorized his little German village?
There is a twist to this tale that one who is unfamiliar with the film will see coming. It is actually the first twist ending in film history. You will just have to find yourself a copy and watch it for yourself. I’m not giving anything away!
Could Cesare Really Be the World’s First Goth?
True story: the first time I became familiar with the character Cesare was thanks to a Bauhaus tee-shirt I got at Camelot Music when I was a teenager and not The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
Bauhaus was an English band who pioneered the entire goth music scene. They used the image of Cesare dragging Jane off under his arm on the tee-shirt (which I still have, btw) for their hit single “Bela Lugosi is Dead”.
And so my love of Conrad Veidt began. I thought the skinny dude clad in black from head to toe with heavy black makeup under his eyes was beyond gorgeous. (And I still do.)
It is easy to see that Cesare’s low-budget fashion sense and overall spookiness inspired goth teenagers everywhere. So all you goth kiddies must remember to thank Conrad Veidt every time you make a trip to Hot Topic for black lipstick.
Today is the the 93rd anniversary of the Berlin premiere of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, so why don’t you celebrate by inviting some friends over to watch this horror masterpiece? And please feel free to share your thoughts about it in the comments below!