Sinister mesmerist Dr. Caligari (Krauss) travels the German countryside as a carnival showman whose main attraction is a sleep walker named Cesare (Veidt). After a series of murders occurs in a small town, Francis (Feher), bosom friend of one of the victims, suspects Caligari may be ordering his somnambulist to commit the crimes, perhaps out of jealousy over ravishing Jane (Dagover). He then begins to hound the manipulative hypnotist, but is he putting himself in serious danger?
One of the finest achievements of the silent era and in some ways an allegory of Weimar Germany's decadent demise, Wiene's "Caligari" is an eerie, heavily stylized horror film that refuses to get old. With its distorted angles, chiaroscuro lighting, and jarring German expressionist sets, the film is a striking precursor not only to Lang's "Metropolis," but to the atmospheric look and feel of 1940s American noir. Also, its tale of a crazed doctor and his zombie-like proxy introduced a basic template for many later horror features. Still creepy and lurid after nearly a century, "Caligari" will cast its spell on you.