1920: 3 movies

(Last updated 11 September 2012)


Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari
Directed by Robert Wiene
Written by Carl Mayer and Hans Janowitz
Starring Werner Krauss, Friedrich Feher, and Conrad Veidt
Production design by Walter Reimann and Walter Röhrig
Set decoration by Hermann Warm
Cinematography by Willy Hameister
Produced by Rudolf Meinert and Erich Pommer

   Relying on fantastic sets and possibly the creepiest and trippiest story ever, this movie succeeds in making the viewer feel and think powerful feelings and thoughts. It's romantic, it's paranoid, it's action-suspense. And the treats keep coming through to the end. Bravo!
   As for the purpose of the movie, it doesn't feel like it's just about vapid thrills. At its heart is a story of a young man, his friend, and the girl he loves. It's also about hearsay, perspective, and institutional corruption. Simply delicious no matter how you look at it. Historically, it sets the stage, literally, for the German Expressionist movement. Huge kudos to the masterful editing and the performances, especially by Werner Krauss.
   Countless future movies owe much to this one. The title translates as "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari".

High and Dizzy 
Produced and directed by Hal Roach
Starring Harold Lloyd and Mildred Davis
Cinematography by Walter Lundin

   Interesting that two major somnambulist movies were made this year. This is a wacky one in which a  sleepwalker meets a drunk, and it features possibly the greatest depiction of drunkenness ever captured in movies. Though Chaplin was the reigning comedic genius of the time, Harold Lloyd borrows nothing to achieve this masterpiece of laughs, thrills, and charm. Even just the beginning scenes which find a goofy but amusing blend of editing, direction, acting, and camera-work, would be enough to earn this a place on this list. And when the ledge scenes arrive, they are so good, photographically and emotionally, it becomes crystal clear that Lloyd was devoted to creating a wonderful experience for the audience. This is one of his most stunning and eternal gifts to us.

The Clown's Little Brother 
Written, animated, co-produced,
and starring Max Fleischer
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Co-produced by John Randolph Bray

   With his Out of the Inkwell series, which he started making in 1918, Max Fleischer was looking for a way to make his drawings more realistic, personable, and entertaining than if they had been static cartoons in a newspaper. By this year, he had already found an engaging character, Koko the clown, and developed a fantastic formula that exceeded his goals: Koko would interact from the drawing pad with his maker, and sometimes leave the page to wreak havoc around the room. In this particular movie, Koko has a breathtaking fight with Max's new pet cat.
   Animation again saves the day by broadening the horizons for movie-making.

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