It Requires An Attention Span: Silent Horror Films

Attention spans are wonderful things. Too bad they are noticeably lacking in society today. I would appreciate even a small attention span, going to dinner with someone or walking along having a conversation without them looking at their cell phone, sitting down to watch a movie in its entirety without needing to log on to the Internet, and so on. So I’m reaching here when I suggest watching silent films. An activity that not only requires one to read (how dare I suggest such a thing), but paying attention to body language, facial expressions, and a story entirely dependent upon the viewer actually grasping it. Plus, there are no explosions to distract you and no computer generated creatures to stifle your own creative insights. Forgive me for wanting you to use basic reasoning skills, an imagination, and an awareness while viewing a film.

I thought I would start with a couple of my favorite horror films. (With other installments for other genres to come.) If you are of the minority (as I am) and love silent films, then you most definitely know about Nosferatu (1922) and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). If you are of the other or some how think silent movies are “dumb” or “too old”, then you are greatly missing out (and mistaken).

For those who haven’t seen Nosferatu, it is the story of Dracula. Pretty simple. Although it is a German expressionist film, it doesn’t carry heavy signs of it. That fact makes it no less beautiful in it’s scenery and lighting, nor it’s artistry. The use of shadows, sweeping shots of the sea, and towering buildings all speak to an expressionist subtlety.

He's coming for you.

Count Orlok/Nosferatu must be one of the creepiest portrayals in all of movie history. The makeup by today’s standards is probably pretty comical. (But, honestly, most horror makeup, even in newer ones, is pretty comical.)

One of the best shots in film history.

His blank stare, protruding teeth, and elongated fingers and figure exudes an uneasiness while he seemingly floats through the movie. When he is being transported on the ship, he slowly rises from his coffin, stagnant and stiff. That scene always causes me to shudder. He is accompanied, not by bats, but rats. He himself a reflection of a hairless big toothed nibbler.

He travels the sea bringing decay and darkness with him. He takes up residence in the house next door to the Hutters. Peeping out the window, with a dead desire for Ellen. If the

Stop looking at me!

thought and picture of him standing next door looking at you through the window isn’t enough to make you squeamish, you are more courageous than I. And that scene when he finally is invited, by windows thrown open, to come to Ellen, he slinks his way over and up the stairs, casting that unmistakable shadow.

The other thing to keep in mind when watching silent movies, is that this was the beginning. Their model for acting was theatre. So while it may look campy or exaggerated this was the brilliant beginnings of acting and filmmaking. The exaggerated and illogical were also trademarks of German expressionism.

Visually stunning. (Blue tint signified nighttime.)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a visually stunning picture of suspense. It is pure expressionism at it’s best. Crooked doorways and windows, winding stairs and pathways, and criss-crossing shadows. A presentation of disjointed imagery that speaks to the disturbed and mysterious characters and events taking place. (Which becomes clearer at the end. Of course, I won’t give it away.)

Dr. Caligari is part of a traveling carnival. His attraction: Cesare, the somnambulist. Under hypnosis he obeys commands and even predicts the future. A prediction of death comes true, which leads everyone to suspect the hunched Dr. Caligari and his pale friend who is kept in a coffin-like cabinet, of depraved deeds. The viewer is led through twists and questions of who, what, and how. Again, I can’t (and won’t divulge) the ending, but this film was the first to utilize the “twist ending” we are so accustomed to now with thrillers.

Don't look into his eyes!

One can see the heavy influence this film has had on movies that came after it and contemporary filmmakers, most notably Tim Burton. Burton’s visual placement and design is remarkably like that of this movie. And Edward Scissorhands IS Cesare but only with snipping fingers (and minus the sleepwalking).

These movies are so enjoyable, if you can allow yourself the time to invest in them. Once you do, they suck you in. You almost forget you’re reading the subtitles, or that every second of the scenes is accompanied by mood setting music, or that it was made before technological advancements.

It doesn't even have to be good when it looks this magnificent. (But it is.)

I’ve discovered you can watch both of these movies on YouTube in their entirety. Quality and version are another story. Since most silent movies have been cleaned up and re-released with different musical scores, it can be iffy finding the right one. The musical score is such a vital part, you don’t want to get a version with a wonky sounding and out of place score attached to it.

However, I own both. So while I’m air popping some popcorn and dimming the lights, make your way over. There’s plenty of room on the couch.

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About lovelyshadesofnostalgia

I wear my 1950s inspired dress drinking out of fingerbowl champagne glasses while listening to Perry Como records. I watch Rita Hayworth movies, Fred Astaire makes me want to get up and dance, and think Robert Redford must be the most attractive man to have graced the planet. I love a variety of eras, from the 1920s through the 1960s, even some inspirations from the 1970s and 1980s. I believe in courtship, words like "swell" and "swoon," privacy over publicity, dressing up each day, mystery, quality over quantity, manners, and sentiment. I still utilize a Polaroid camera at times, type on my 1960s Remington typewriter, wear one piece swimsuits, sit and sort through my vinyls, and peruse antique and vintage shoppes. I read ferociously. Real books. Because I love the feel, the weight, the smell, and the sound of a book. I paint. I take photographs. I bake from scratch.
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260 Responses to It Requires An Attention Span: Silent Horror Films

  1. Wow. This post really took me back…all the way to film classes in college and admittedly that was “some time” ago. These films were highlighted early and often for their groundbreaking attributes. And, casting them against the fast-food, rush-rush society we’re in now…excellent read!

  2. Sharp says:

    hmm perhaps I will try to watch a few of these silent movies.. thanks

  3. I love Nosferatu. Great post. We are way too distracted today. I usually get these movies when I spot them at the library, never thought of YouTube.

    • It’s so important to get the right version. Personally, I prefer the Image Entertainment releases. They seem to have better musical scores.

      • Spectra says:

        OMW! (ohmyword-it’s quainter) Thank you so much for the tips on which films, etc. I just signed up! Read your bio – it’s like you’re me?? (Except that I am Veronica Lakes reincarnation {this week}, so how can that be?) I just watched Metropolis 2 weeks ago on You Tube, and was delighted silents and B&W classics were available!

        What a GREAT post. I am so glad for myself that you were freshly pressed today! The German filmakers just had it going on! I will locate and watch both of these film greats!

  4. I love these movies. I am quite a big fan of thrillers, suspense, and the horror genre; but Nosferatu remains difficult to sit through. It’s so creepy! Caligari is such a breath-taking movie to sit through. Just staring at the imagery is enough to keep me entertained. I was had the good fortune to see an adaptation of the film as a theater piece. It used puppets. Also quite brilliant and frightening.

  5. oldancestor says:

    When I was a lad, my Dad had a 16mm movie projector and used to borrow actual film reels from the local library. We used to watch Nosferatu, Hunchback of Notre Dame (Lon Chaney, of course), Phantom of the Opera (Chaney again), and other silent horror films. He probably shose those titles because the projector had no sound!

    I think Nosferatu still holds up today. While modern viewers are unlikely to be frightened, it’s hard to deny the artistry.

    Thanks for mentioning it.
    ;)

    • I bet watching them on a projector was great! We are much more desensitized now, so most probably won’t be frightened by Nosferatu. Hopefully the creepy sensation and anticipation throughout that movie would cause at least a chill. :)

      • Spectra says:

        wonder how scared some people would get if they toked up a little before/during the film? heh heh

      • oldancestor says:

        Yeah, my Dad always passed a joint around to mellow us out before watching a movie.
        ;)

        Lovelyshades, I’m glad to see thre’s someone out there who can handle subtitles. Imagine what we get to enjoy that others miss.

        Legal disclaimer: My dad didn’t really give us weed.

  6. Wow–I am really not literate when it comes to horror films–sadly so! But I have been blogging toward a memoir about my recovery from mental illness–a horror story all its own–but with a happy ending—————-

    Congrats on FP-ed! Hang on for the ride—————

    Kathy

  7. SimonAndRoni says:

    I love Nosferatu but haven’t seen Caligari. But I agree with you, we are way too connected and tend to forget the amazing things history has to offer. I’ve been inspired!
    congrats!

  8. Howlin' says:

    I thought I was the only person left with enough of an attention span to watch silent movies. Glad I was wrong. There are so many great films that people are missing out on. It’s a sad state of affairs when people think that old, black and white or foreign movies have to be remade to the standard of a colouring book for the current generation of movie goers to enjoy the stories. I’m sure they are far more intelligent, but don’t seem to get the chance to show it.

    • I agree, I think people need to be given more credit. Unfortunately, the entertainment powers that be don’t allow a lot of room for it. We live in a world of being “hand fed” and “new, fast, now.” So most people are not going to actively seek out these older movies. Glad I’m not alone!

    • I attempted to watch a few silent movies many years ago but couldn’t ever get into the swing of them. (Based on this entry, I may have to revisit the question!)

      Foreign movies are another matter altogether. I haven’t had a chance to see many since I became a mother, but I really enjoyed The Girl Who Played with Fire. I was stunned when I read it was going to be remade Hollywood-style. Why remake something already excellent? Is it really that hard to follow subtitles? The subtitles actually were a gift to me. My mind’s always racing these days, so that watching that subtitled movie (and its sequel) allowed me to really immerse myself in something else. The subtitles diminished my mind’s tendency to roam to questions of child care, dinner, sleep schedules, work and the similar. I’m grateful for that, and ought seek it out more. Thanks for reminding me!

      • Unfortunately, for Americans, subtitles are usually a no-go. So, they inevitably, remake it and strip away all the magical things that made it so good in the first place. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was brilliant. After a friend and I watched it, we saw there was a future release of it and were a bit confused. Only to find out, it’s the “Americanized” version of it. Kind of sad.

  9. I love Nosferatu. Although I’ve never managed to catch a showing, the musical ensemble, Club Foot Orchestra, has played live to showings of Nosferatu and Cabinet of Dr. Caligari here in San Francisco. They’ve also done performances for Metropolis, another silent film with some horror, but mostly science fiction themes. Either way, I doubt anyone would have a hard time recognizing the brilliance of these films on the big screen with live music accentuating the tension and drama. Too bad more people don’t have the chance to experience it that way.
    Great post!

    • Thanks! I have never had the chance to see them in a theatre setting either. I would love to though! Seeing them in their full and intended glory would be amazing. Metropolis is great, as well. (I plan on including that one in another installment of this post.)

  10. I haven’t seen either, but after reading your post, I’ve grown curious.

    Thanks!

  11. petegambino says:

    This was a great article. I teach a high school film appreciation class and while the kids always complain about silent films at first, they fall in love with films such as Caligari and Nosferatu. There’s just something about silent horror that exacerbates the intensity. If for nothing else, the cinematography of these films is worth the price of admission. They are truly pieces of art.

    For what it’s worth, silent comedies are also great. I’d recommend Sherlock Jr. and The Kid.

    Thanks for posting.

    • Yes! If given the chance, younger generations (including my own!) would enjoy these and be pleasantly surprised. I’m glad there are people like you who are giving the younger people the opportunity, they might not otherwise have, to see great films like these! I have never seen Sherlock Jr., but will definitely add it to my list to watch. I’m planning on several installments of this post. There are so many great silent movies to write about, it’s hard to choose a few to include in each post. (City Lights, Pandora’s Box, It. . .so many!)

  12. luwakcoffe says:

    great post!! old classic always classy. No matter horror,comedy, romance, classic is unique and historical.

    sharing you unique information from my blog:
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  13. I’m not a big fan of horror films… nowadays they just seem to be bloody but not scary… I’m not interested in gore fests at all… having said that- some og those old classics are brilliant. Nosferatu is one of my favorites too!

  14. Congrats – just saw you were Freshly Pressed!

  15. xoxofrets says:

    I don’t know anything about those movies. But since I’m starting to love vintage, I might as well try to look for and watch them :)

  16. Emily Jane says:

    Wonderfully written, and very thought-provoking. Glad to see someone standing up for the maintenance of a healthy supply of brain cells :) Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  17. noir33 says:

    needed to be said….

  18. MSKelley says:

    Recently I attended a showing of Metropolis with a live accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra. This was how silents should be viewed, as they were in their day. Astonishingly beautiful. My ten and six year-old went with me and became rapidly absorbed by the spectacle — upset as the flood waters started to surround the underground children, triumphant and pounding the floor at the explosive finish. By the end, I was asked if I could purchase the film and the disc of the music to sync both for home viewings. If you haven’t seen this sort of performance, well worth pursuing.

    • What a spectacular experience that must have been. And on top of that, being able share it with your children!

      • They were fascinated — the marathon length of the film (for a child) made it an impressive achievement, but once it started they were mesmerized. However, this was preceded by a a Harold Lloyd collection I had been given about four years ago. I broke them in with Safety Last, which has a much slower pace than they are used to, but with a big visual finish. They really find silent films engaging. As was your article. Thanks for posting it.

  19. Lakia Gordon says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a silent movie, let a lone a horror one LOL. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to even watch regular movies that have sound lol

  20. ofpopularrhetoric says:

    I feel like my grandfather saying this, but they just don’t make them like they used to. Movies and products today aren’t meant to last like those that came before them. Nosferatu and Caligari have been so influential, but most people have no idea. Another good one is the Phantom of the Opera. I’ve always admired/been creeped out by Karloff and his dedication to the role. He made a whole series of masks with small differences in facial expression so the audience could become more connected with the character. He also used wire to shape his face so the reveal would be as horrifying as possible.

    Cheers for the nostalgia.
    OPR

  21. Connie T says:

    The only silent movies I have watched are the old Charlie Chaplin movies.

  22. Leilani says:

    Nasferatu was deliciously creepy. I found comfort in its slowness.

  23. Blog By K. says:

    It was The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari that first introduced me to the realm of German expressionism. ‘Til this day the ending haunts me (but in the best possible way). Great post btw! If this doesn’t evoke people’s interest in silent films (and the likes of Fritz Lang), I don’t know what will..

  24. dan2ylt says:

    i wanna see a new movie (maybe one filmed durin 2011) without sound…i think nowadays all the movies have too many effects.

  25. ravensmarch says:

    I’ve a friend who when my wife and I discuss films like “The Lion in Winter” or “The Uninvited” (the one with Ray Milland), which are modern at least to the point of having a sound-track, cries out, “Oh, those were made before I was born!” We can’t seem to make her understand that this is a statement we could as well, and it has absolutely no bearing on whether the film is any good or not. Alas.

    When “Shadow of the Vampire” came out, I watched “Nosferatu” again after a lapse of some years, and I was struck by how much less frightening Willem Dafoe in modern make-up was than Max Schrek in his ancient greasepaint. Those old German directors really had it going on.

    • All of my favorite movies (and the majority in my collection) were made about 40 years before I was born! I watched Shadow of the Vampire last year, and thought it was an interesting adage to the story of the movie of Nosferatu, but you’re right, the fright factor was sorely lacking.

  26. I love silent comedies. I am always amazed at the comedy feats of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. They were truly amazing.

  27. Harry says:

    I think silent cinema is hugely overlooked by most people. All we’ve really had a chance to see are the poorly reproduced versions for the most part, and on TV. I was astounded to see a restored silent in a theater and the lighting and composition was amazing! So many subtleties were used to communicate without words that just blow by us when we see them on a small screen.
    Sad to think that most of these are “lost” to us due to time and deterioration.

  28. Both of these films are a fantastic display of how effective silent films could be at creating mood, something I think a lot of modern films do a terrible job of doing with the plethora of CGI and other technical tools they have.

    While I do enjoy both of these films, I’m a much bigger fan of silent melodramas. People interest in film should certainly check out some silent films as they force you to become a smarter and more attentive film viewer.

  29. Daniel Jaocb says:

    I completely agree ~ attention spans are required for silent movies (and silent cinema is my favorite of all art forms). Have you heard of ‘Louis’, a modern silent film? http://www.louisthemovie.com/ I’ve not seen it but it looks incredible! It’s honoring the art form of silent film rather than making fun of it as is usually the case with modern silent film projects.

    Great blog post.

  30. Thanks so much for visiting my ‘Careann’s Musings’ blog yesterday via Freshly Pressed. I love meeting new people here in cyberspace. As a writer I keep my blog’s focus mostly on writing, but obviously I post on other topics, too. I’ve enjoyed having a peek at your blog. I’m not a big movie buff, but I think of silent films as a distinct art form. Thanks for a thought-provoking post. :)

  31. elisajoy says:

    Awesome post! I really enjoyed reading it. Excellent topic. I definitely want to check out those silent films, horror or not.

  32. Hank Harwell says:

    Thank you. We stand in danger of forgetting the great work of previous generations that got us to where we are today. Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis, The Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Der Golem have all stood the test of time.

  33. I enjoyed your post. My favorite quote from a silent movie is ” ”
    I crack up every time I don’t hear it. Congrats on being Freshly Silent, I mean Freshly Pressed. Job well done.

    Blessings,

    Ava
    xox

  34. cookiegeisha says:

    This was awesome. Thanks.

  35. robertforto says:

    Love it! I am huge horror fan– we do what is called the 31 Days of Horror each October here at the house.

    Nosferatu is a classic and you are right the silent ones seem to be the most deadly! I would love to see “new” film done without dialogue as one of your commenters suggested.

    I too suffer from too much information– I typically update twitter, chat on text and read the news on the Internet all while I am trying to watch a movie. It has to stop!

    Thanks

    Robert
    http://robertforto.wordpress.com

  36. Jess Witkins says:

    Ooh, I watched both of these films in a film lit class in college and I love them. I mean where would Orson Welles be without Nosferatu? The black and white shading?! I think this is a great post, thanks for a trip down memory lane. I love old movies, and foreign films too. *gasp!* Subtitles!

  37. TexasMidori says:

    This is fascinating! I will definitely take a look at these movies. I am not a fan of the recent style of horror films (Saw, Hills Have Eyes, that kind of rot) but these look to be very fun to watch. I like a movie I can study for its thought content and underlying metaphors. Again, I will definitely look these up. Thank you!

  38. Thanks so much for your lovely post. It’s great to know that people are still watching silent films, which are as artistic as anything in the sound era. It’s also great to read the comments and to see that you’ve inspired many people to check these films out.

    If you want to explore more in silent horror, I definitely recommend the films of Lon Chaney Sr. His best-known films are The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Phantom of the Opera; but I would suggest also watching his horror classic, The Unknown, from 1928, in which Chaney gives a brilliant, moving performance (a young Joan Crawford is also in the cast). You should also check out Conrad Veidt (who was Cesare in Caligari) in The Man Who Laughed, another silent horror (1926) film and another wonderful performance by Veidt (a great, unsung actor). Both these films are on DVD.

    Look forward to your post on silent comedy!

    • I will definitely check out The Unknown, I’ve never seen that one. The Man Who Laughs was great! Albeit very sad. (And, the influence for The Joker in Batman.) And I meant to reference Conrad Veidt as Major Strasser in Casablanca! Thanks for reminding me! He’s so well-known for that character, most people don’t know he had this wonderful silent career as well.

  39. Excellent post, and great recommendations. I’ve watched a few other silent horror films, but I recommend a movie that isn’t strictly horror, but has some seriously creepy elements: The Wind, 1928, starring Lillian Gish. Based on a novel about a woman who moves from Virginia to West Texas to live with the distant relatives, it’s early psychological horror & suspense. Love it.

  40. flyingunibrow says:

    I thought people stopped watching silent movies. Apparently, not. I remember watching Nosferatu and Dr Caligari with three other friends. I found myself lucky to find people who appreciated the silent films. You really do into a different world when you watch these films. It’s so different. It’s like walking into an ancient history museum- except, everything’s moving.

  41. Ah, I love old, silent, black and white films. I’ve even tried my hand at making one or two. You’re right they do make you think a little more if done well. If not, then, well, they can get boring. If you really want to test your attention span, try Greed (1924) and Battleship Potemkin (1925). Both great movies but require a great commitment.

  42. charlywalker says:

    I would love to watch Silent Films, but that’s impossible these days in a public Theater…

    Great Blog!

    Spread the Silent Humor….

  43. I realize the films I posted above aren’t horror, my apologies if they are out of place. :P One contemporary musician who does justice to old horror films, I think, is Rob Zombie. He especially loves Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

  44. That’s kick ass, I’m going to throw a silent movie night now! :D

  45. Surisme says:

    Great article, I love silent movies as well. Charlie Chaplin was amazing, and Nosferatu was brilliant for its time, and still is.

  46. Skye says:

    Your blog is so “swell” :)

  47. jamieahughes says:

    Very well said. I teach a film class, and many of my students whine and moan the first few weeks when we watch films like these or other early gems like “Birth of a Nation” (granted the subject material is a bit wonky) and **GASP** foreign films like “Hiroshima, Mon Amour” or “The 400 Blows.” Thanks for reassuring me that my refusal to use only modern films is a just one! :) You have a new fan/follower in me!

  48. joanierobi says:

    Love these films! And am absolutely a kindred spirit on the nostalgia front. Although I’d take Gregory Peck over Robert Redford any day :-) Congrats on FP

  49. cpmondello says:

    enjoyed the article and pics..thanks

  50. Gabriel says:

    Silent films are diamonds! Even for deaf communities around the world, too. There is a film I try to find: this film from Europe and made in probably 1960’s; it is about love story between lady and guy along with mixed story of aladdin and 10,ooo leagues down under. If you know the title, please do share. Look forward to next silent movies – comedy.
    Gracias,
    Gabriel

  51. Christian says:

    This Is awesome,
    Thank’s For a great shared

  52. Victor says:

    If half of the people I know should read your post and follow your tips I would be very glad if they did it. There are so dumby movies nowadays that almost everyone forget about the classic and imortal productions. They have motives for being called classics, haven’t they ? I love Nosferatu and as you, I think it is very creepy ( principally the ship part *shiver* ). Unfortunally I couldn’t watch Dr. Calligari yet, but my mom is a big fan of German expressionism so she probally has it at home. However, very good post, I loved it. By the way, your blog is very cool, I’ll try to come back frequently. Congrats !

    Very Best,

    Victor

    * I’m brazilian, so, if I wrote something incorrectly, please, let me know. I’m still learning =/

  53. corzgalore says:

    I have never actually watched a silent film, so I can’t be the judge. But seeing as I have a hearing problem and have to watch with subtitles anyways, and my love for black and whites, I’m pretty sure that would be right up my alley.

  54. Njuul says:

    Because of this post, I had to go and find Nosferatu to watch it. Definitely one of the better older movies, but I suppose my attention span keeps me from truly enjoying old pictures. More entertaining than the much younger Night of the Living Dead, though, and it is definitely a well-made film, just too old for my own taste. I’m afraid a remake would be disastrous though, so I dare not wish for it…

    Enjoyed the post, and Dr. Caligari will definitely be next on my list… :-)

  55. urbannight says:

    These are but a few of the classic horror on my instant viewing list on Netflick. I have to admit that I had the chance to pick up the first film version of Sweeny Todd. Can’t remember exact year, but it was 1920 something. I didn’t. I went back the next day and it was gone. (This was before the Burton film made it well known) I’ve been kicking myself ever since.

  56. Of course what you’ve written about is German Expressionism, the genre that both your examples and others mentioned by commenters (Der Golem, Metropolis, Faust, The Man Who Laughs etc.) belong to. the style continued into sound in Germany (“M”) and then came here when Hitler rose to power. That’s how we got the horror cycle 0f 1930-1939, photographed and directed by many of the same people that worked on the German films. And then it became Film Noir. It’s all about the shadows. I wrote about it too nearly one year ago to the day (oooOOOOooo!):
    http://invisiblemikey.wordpress.com/2010/04/16/long-shadows/

  57. vintage45 says:

    Like those posts. It’s nice to see someone appreciate the finer things in life. I review movies and other media on my blog and I wanted to pass along a high recommendation for 1932’s “Vampyr.” Don’t bother with the U.S. dubbed version. The movie was originally filmed as a silent. The v/o was added later. I’ve found the best way to watch this is with the volume off.

  58. ramiz says:

    it is just something specail love you pust.

  59. ramiz says:

    get afraid from horror films. can’t watch them alone

  60. Jack Primus says:

    This is certainly a classic. Funny for me, like so many things, my own collection of these is somewhat outdated itself since I have them all on VCR tapes and only have a VCR player in my room. But they help me have such interesting dreams.

    • I still have some VHS tapes! I have a hard time rationalizing buying the DVDs when I already own them. (But I also still have my 19 inch TV my parents gave me for Christmas about 11 years ago! So you can’t go by me!) :)

  61. ramiz says:

    match with your personality

  62. Reatha Kenny says:

    Fantastic post and so true. When vampires were actually scary. So glad to find your blog too. It’s always good to find others who have an irrational love for things past. :)

  63. I have been studying these films over the past six months. Quite a lot of the students have little appreciation for the old classics like ‘…Dr. Caligari’ and ‘Nosferatu’. It’s fresh to read this post and the responses, and know that these films will out live all the predictable stuff that get’s released these days. Great post!

  64. Craig Wetzel says:

    Soon after reading this post I decided I have needed a porkpie hat for some time. I just didn’t realize it. I may not look like Buster Keaton in it, which is probably a good thing, but as soon as my derby arrives I am placing my next order. Thank you.

  65. Inglorion says:

    I’m somewhat familiar with Nosferatu, but have never seen a silent movie before. After reading your article I’ve decided that that will no longer be the case by the end of the week.

  66. notesonafilm says:

    Great post! Always appreciate some support for silent films! It’s such an amazing era in cinema’s history. It’s unfortunate in today’s “everyone needs instant gratification” society that so many people can’t relax and intake the beauty of a well-paced, beautifully composed film such as these silent classics and many others (not to mention many foreign films).

  67. I.Welsh-Art says:

    One of the first horror movies I ever saw. I was 8 I think. That movie made me afraid of moving shadows on the wall.

    • Yikes! A horror movie at 8, I’m sure it would! Come to think of it, about that age I watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Scared the piddle out of me. To this day, I refuse to watch it again, or even glance at any of the photos or scenes from it.

  68. Nosferatu is so good! I love old movies, especially silent films. It’s sad that not many people still give them the time they deserve. And I love the makeup! It’s a big part of what makes those films so great, and a little magical!

  69. Beautiful. Your post has re-introduced me to this Old Beauty, the silent film, with a brand new interest to find out for myself. Thanks for such a well-written post and congrats of the FP!

  70. leadinglight says:

    I’ve never been big on silent or b/w films but I simply adore foreign films. I watch Korean, Japanese, Hong Kong, German, Italian and Spanish films. Subtitles are never an issue. To be honest, I like them. When I also go for movies, I like the types they have on BBC – adaptations of classics from Hardy, Eliot and the Bronte sisters.

  71. Love silent horror films, Haxan, Vampyr, Phantom of the Opera, Golem. I love the expressionism used within the silent horror films and seeing how they influenced German Expressionism and American Horror films of the Universal era and even influencing film noir.

  72. Bee says:

    This is an awesome post! I actually just watched Nosferatu a few months ago and really enjoyed it! That was my first time watching a silent film but it certainly won’t be my last! I think that if people took the time to watch the movies for what they were rather than comparing them to movies of today that they would enjoy them much more. =)

  73. Great post! I love these movies. Even people who have never seen them are exposed to thier influence on a regular basis: the rock group Kamelot featured a Nosferatu homage in their ‘March of Mephisto’ video. I recently saw Vampire -which predates Nosferatu- on TCM. Pretty scary stuff. I’m also a huge fan of Fritz Lang’s ‘M’ and ‘Metropolis.’ ‘Metropolis’ was released on DVD ia few years ago in a version that was pieced together from the few remaining copies in film archives around the world in an effort to resture the entire ful-feature length (it was severely cut after released). Another version, a full :30 minutes longer, was found in Argentina in 2008. These are treasures, most have been lost… and the world can learn much from what remains. Thanks!

  74. “Nosferatu” is still one of the most unsettling films ever made. Much like “The Exorcist”, a viewer has to realize that all of its’ genius lies in the organic and tangible. Effective film craft without blue screens and computers. Have you had a chance to enjoy the incredible, Louise Brooks in, “Pandora’s Box”? You can’t look away.

    • Louise Brooks (and Clara Bow) are two big reasons why I keep seeking out new silent movies to watch. I watched Pandora’s Box for the first time last year and was blown away! That’s one I definitely need to add to my collection.

  75. toemailer says:

    Both are masterworks. But almost lost on today’s world.

  76. redink8 says:

    I love this! It is so true! I love the old black and white films. When I watch some of the classics in class I see a lot of students around me texting and doing other things. It is a shame that people don’t like the classics anymore and that people only watch things that don’t make them read or use their imagination.

  77. teamgo says:

    I’ll try a watch a silent film now. I’ll try to keep an open mind as well.

  78. I like foreign films, and just watched a French one called “Priceless”, which I really enjoyed. I do need to be in the right mood for subtitles. Silent films are different, because there are fewer words. Fast talkers being subtitled can require some quick visual processing.
    Old spooky movies definitely give me the creeps!

  79. doronio says:

    Great post! While reading your descriptions of “Nosferatu” and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” I actually got a bit scared. Definitely adding them to my must watch list.

    I admit that the amount of silent films I’ve watched is minimal (mostly Buster Keaton), but I do think you’re right about it requiring more attention than people are willing to devote.

    Anyways, congrats on being Freshly Pressed. :)

  80. infinite monkey theorem says:

    Fantastic movies that make me proud to have an attention span!!! What I love about these movies is how immersed you can become in the imagery. The sets, lighting, and camera work are so enthralling. Great blog!

  81. Moona says:

    I think I’d have to define myself as one with an attention span that doesn’t allow me to sit through a whole silent movie, though I’ve tried. Although, I don’t think it is so much the fact that it’s “silent” with reading involved – I have watched foreign films with many necessary subtitles after all – but I think it has to do with the music that I’m not a fan of in silent movies; I also strongly dislike how dramatized it has to be to get their points across. However, I have never seen even a little bit of any of the horror movies (I’m a baby when it comes to horror movies and can’t watch them in my own house. And that refers to ANY horror movie, even the “not scary” ones) so I’m not sure if all of the above applies to silent horror movies as well.

    I think I’ll have to try them out as I do love old movies as well and you seem to glorify it all. Thanks for the post!

  82. Arjdalumat says:

    That’s the problem of the current generation’s crowd of moviegoers. The most recent classy Western horror film that I have seen’s ‘The Others’ starring Nicole Kidman. And man, that was in 2002! I wonder what’s happening to Hollywood remaking Asian horror films (which by the way are really good and spine-chilling) and creating teeny-bopper slasher films for the past few years when it actually has gems to be proud of (i.e. ‘The Exorcist’).

    By the way, congratulations for being freshly pressed!

    • Thank you! Yes, Hollywood recently has done a very poor job with the horror movies. The Others was an exception, I agree. I was just replying to someone else, and mentioned the Korean film, Mother. It was really great, I hope Hollywood doesn’t butcher it too!

  83. Makya McBee says:

    Nicely done.

    Perhaps you would be interested on my take on new vs. old vampires, from just a couple of weeks ago –
    http://makyamcbee.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/vs-brooding-vampires/

    Keep up the noblogia (nostalgia+ blog…maybe it doesn’t work)

  84. Rob Gibb IV says:

    I want to watch these now. Period.

  85. 可爱多 says:

    Only see images let me creepy, sometimes life requires such be stimulated to it.

  86. Collatz says:

    Howdy,
    I am not a native English speaker, I like your post very much! And I want to ask a question, how can you explain “how dare” in the sentence “how dare I suggest such a thing”. thank you.

  87. They weren’t silent movies, but when I was younger{40 yrs ago to be exact} We used to watch “Creature Features” every Saturday night at 10:30 Back in the early 70’s it was the big thing! Posters, newspaper write ups, the works–I have tried to get my kids to watch and enjoy the original’s…..Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman…..but to no success….no blood , no gore, just the suggestion or hint of violence does not even invite their attention….too bad, I still love these classics and watch them whenever I can!

  88. solosocial says:

    “Nosferatu”–I have it on tape (remember VHS)! I learned about it when I was a kid, from a book about horror movies. But I didn’t see it until I was an adult. I have seen numerous vampire films. “Interview with the Vampire” is my favorite. But “Nosferatu” is the scariest, by far! The reason is simple: It is the only vampire film which portrays vampires as they really are, in Transylvania tradition. They are not charming, not attractive, not alive–they are cold, dead monsters. Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” is not the traditional vampire, at all. Bram Stoker was British–his story was a long way from Transylvania, just as he was. In fact (to my knowledge) F.W. Murnau had some legal trouble with the estate of Bram Stoker for making “Nosferatu”, Stoker’s estate claiming Murnau had stolen the story. And Murnau won the case, of course–he didn’t steal the story, which is obvious when comparing the two films. We’ve been “refining” ancient myths and legends for generations, to make them more palatable, less violent, and even more politically correct. And in doing so, we’ve sacrificed the reality of the unreal.

    • Nosferatu was almost wiped out completely because of the legal battle from Stoker’s widow. Luckily, some copies survived being destroyed, or we would have been greatly deprived of this work of art.

      • Hank Harwell says:

        Yes, it is fortunate indeed that we Nosferatu exists. The Stoker Estate actually won the suit, and as part of the terms of the settlement, every print was to be destroyed. Thank heaven for a few scofflaws out there!

  89. Surendran says:

    I just signed up and will be following your blog with the utmost interest. It isn’t everyday that I come upon a blog post that puts into words the exact set of thoughts swirling around in my head. I’m not talking about the movies themselves, but rather about the use of “basic reasoning skills, an imagination, and an awareness while viewing a film.” It’s funny that most people today don’t understand that taking the time to watch a truly well made movie or read a great book isn’t just time well spent, but time well ‘invested’ too.

    • Engaging our senses and intellect are keys to being human beings. We should take full advantage of it. :)

    • You hit the exact point,
      Nowadays most people want to be entertained they don’t want to have to think about it, they want it given to them–they do not want to put any effort into it themselves.
      That’s why Books /Movies from the past are classic, they put you in a position to reason, imagine and think!

  90. Rapunzel says:

    hey there, this is a nice post. :-) my boyfriend and i enjoyed nosferatu, too, and have since been trying to get our friends to watch it.

    it really is amazing what they were able to do in those days. these two films are 100% creativity. thanks for sharing :-)

  91. Josh says:

    Great post! I love “Nosferatu” and “Metropolis” (not horror, but still great). Foreign films with subtitles could be lumped in with silent movies, because, for most people, they might as well be silent movies. People who avoid movies where they have to “read” are robbing themselves of a chance to see some great films.

  92. zatman says:

    wanna tickle your funny bone? aye….
    visit my blog: studentdreams.wordpress.com
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    give me suggestion, how to improvise.

  93. whatsaysyou says:

    Silent films still fascinate me since I was a kid :)

  94. rohitbites says:

    Nosferatu! Ah! I remember the time I first saw this movie- I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen for a minute. I had read Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, and I wanted to watch it. Although, Nosferatu differs in many aspects while compared to the original masterpiece, it still manages to carve a niche for itself.
    Friedrich Gustav Max Schreck has given life to the character Count Orlok- such perfection and intense are his emotions that although one does feel a bit creepy watching him, but at the same time, cannot help adding Count Orlok as one of the most memorable characters into his/her list of favorites. Pointed ears, bulging eyes, long sharp lifeless claws and stooped body, Count Orlok easily captivates one’s mind.
    I did read about the making of this movie, and I’m pretty sure you too would’ve done a bit of research yourself. I found it sad to read the this was the first and last movie by Prana Film, which later filed bankruptcy after Bram Stoker estate sued for copyright infringement and won. But I feel fortunate to have watched this movie and, I am glad have my own copy of this masterpiece.
    Loved reading your post, amazing work! =)

  95. clementinewinter says:

    I totally agree with you about attention spans these days. It’s ridiculous how closed people can be when it comes to trying new things that involve paying attention. Thank you for a wonderful post and congratulations on being freshly pressed. You’ve brought attention to my lack of silent horror film knowledge !

  96. fey's diary says:

    I thought Nosferatu was just only a game.

  97. writrsblok says:

    Thanks for the onslaught of new and crazy nightmares brought on from those pictures… cheers

  98. Roda says:

    Hi Enjoyed reading your blog and gel with most of your reminiscences except on horror movies. I was mortally afraid to be out alone at night leave alone watch a dracula movie.Well after studying the LOA I have managed to overcome my first fear when I understood that we attract things into our life good or bad when we dwell on them or fear them. I don’t know when I shall be brave enough to tackle dracula without my fears.

  99. Cherszy says:

    I love silent films, but I haven’t really watched silent horror films. Maybe I should give it a try sometime. Other than these two, any other films you can suggest?

    • There are a lot of great suggestions from other commenters. Horror and beyond. Vampyr (1932), Pandora’s Box (1929), City Lights (1931), It (1927). I’ve never seen the following, but others here have suggested them: The Golem (1920), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1925), The Wind (1928) just to name a few. :)

      • Cherszy says:

        Oh! Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! I loved the novel! Maybe I should check out the silent film version of that!

        Thanks for the suggestions! I’ll go see if I can get a copy of those somewhere. :)

  100. ah nosferatu! my all time favorite vampire! not some reluctant pretty boy who likes to look all … whatever it is he’s trying to look. nosferatu is real goth.
    both these films are my favorites as well. im so glad to have found this post ;)
    the beau and i watch a lot of movies, and we have a special fondness for old silent films. they are a treat, indeed.
    k☼

    • A lot of people have been talking about how vampires have gotten less and less frightening over the years. It’s such a shame being given the watered-down versions!

      • i agree. my two favorite vampire movies are ‘nosferatu’ and ’30 days of night’. also there is a nice little foreign film called ‘let the right one in’ thats very good. they recently made a remake that is as good called ‘let me in’. they arent old films, but they are old style vampires.
        k☼

  101. inidna says:

    I’ve never watched a silent film before – let alone a horror one as I don’t like horrors. I got squeamish looking at all the pictures you posted up there (especially the one titled ‘don’t like into his eyes’ and of course, I looked into his eyes). *shudder* I can really feel your love/passion for silent movies in this post and after reading it I wouldn’t mind giving silent films a go if I can find them here in Cambodia; although the chances of that are kind of doubtful. Ah, well, there’s always the internet! ;) Great post!

  102. wedschild says:

    I thought I was the only one who still watched silent films. *grins*

    Love Nosferatu and Dr. Caligari.

    Metropolis is excellent. (Especially with the Loverboy soundtrack.) We actually watched it in one of my HS English classes. Though, I’d seen it twice by then.

    I’d have to say M is probably the best crime film I’ve ever watched.

    I stumbled across an excellent Lovecraft adaptation from 29, I think it is, on Netflix. (Streaming.) Absolutely brilliant and so much creepier than many of the newer movies. The Call of Cthulhu. It was produced by the Lovecraft Society. Fascinating watching if you haven’t seen it.

    And of course – Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie. A must watch.

  103. crumb coated says:

    WoW! I’m glad I stumbled across this post. I recognized the photo from Nosferatu. It’s probably been 10 years since I’ve seen the movie, but can remember what an impression it had on me; what a great film. Count Orlok……amazingly creepy! Thanks for bringing up a memorable experience for me.

    I like what you have to share, look forward to your next post.

  104. This post is the bee’s knees! Silent films such as “Nosferatu”, “The Cabinet Of Dr. Cailgari” and “Metropolis” have a different atmosphere than sound films. You perceive them in a different way, focusing more on the visual elements. It’s a bit of a shame that no one has followed in the footsteps of Mel Brook’s “Silent Movie”. A modern “silent film” (subtitles, no spoken voices heard, only musical score accompaniment) could make an incredible artistic statement. A modern silent version of “Nosferatu” would be stunning!

  105. dessousblog says:

    “Although it is a German expressionist film, it doesn’t carry heavy signs of it.” What dop you mean by this? I wonder what cliches you got about Germans :-)

    Nosferatu is really a great film: I’ve seen it once at a cinema with a fantastic live piano show and people were laughing about some scenes. I was angry, because most young lads can’t emphasize with that time and the technical equipment Murnau was using. And, of course, it’s a problem of the attention span. No flickering lights, no quick cuts. Damned Ritalin kids…

  106. Great post. Great films. You have a great sounding life. I try and make the time to listen to music on cassette tape every now and again. A few steps back helps with the great leap forward.

    Mark

  107. liphininternational says:

    Nosferatu is the best vampire film ever made hands down.
    Unfortunately in this modern era it seems the mainstream leans away from ‘art’ and leans towards a kind of cringe-filled method or formula.
    So instead of the ‘mother’s milk’ of pure art (like Nosferatu and films like Irreversible or Breathless, or David Lynch films) we suckle at this kind of insincere imitation…

    • “Cringe-filled method or formula” is a great way of putting it. Every time I hear about a “new” movie in the works, it always ends up being a remake (a poorly done one at that) or just the same kind of movies we’ve seen for the last several years. Gets tiring.

  108. zookyshirts says:

    I really like your enthusiasm for silent movies. To me, Nosferatu was creative in how it relied on lighting and shadows and spare visuals to build suspense. A slow build — much different than current movies that leap right into action. I’ve watched many more comedy silent movies than horror ones. Someone mentioned Charlie Chaplin, and I think the guy was a comic genius. Modern Times was spectacular in its movement to tell the story. Thanks for posting about your enjoyment of these wonderful movies!

  109. Cynthia Clay says:

    My parents, theater people, made sure I saw silent films as a child. What a treat. One film I did not get to see as a child was Metropolis. My husband and I searched for it just before the Internet and could only find a colorized version. As we really wanted to see the film and and the sound track was by a famous rock band (sorry, can’t remember who) we decided we would rent despite the colorization. We lucked out. The colorization was not that horrible Let’s Make a PINK Dress and her Lips RED. Each s cene was suffused by a touch of color-everything, setting, costumes, props, actors, and the color wash was chosen for the mood of the scene. The colorizing had been done as a labor of love and it works.

    Regarding subtitles, when I recommned a foreign or silent film and some says “But there are subtitles,” this just pops out of my mouth: “Reading is not a problem for me.”

    I do get annoyed with those who won’t read. What were they doing during those 13 years of free education?

  110. That sounds like a fabulous childhood! I love your response to the subtitles, “Reading is not a problem for me.” Perfect!

  111. Barry says:

    Awesome post! Noseferatu can be seen on Hulu for free which I may have to check it out after reading this post.

  112. I love silent movies! My children were learning about the history of movie making because my daughter asked about color and sound in movies. We looked up silent movies on YouTube. It wasn’t easy, but we found a few great clips. I probably wouldn’t share Nosferatu and The Cabinet with my kiddos just yet but I’ll check them out for myself. I saw Nosferatu a long time ago but not The Cabinet.

  113. I. C. Verity says:

    The pictures themselves look super-interesting.
    I completely agree w/ the fact that most new movies are not at all fun to watch, unless you’re there for the visual effects (but even they eventually get old after a while!)

  114. Daniel says:

    This post certainly got MY attention ! Very cool. My all-time favorite silent horror classic is 1925’s “The Phantom of the Opera”, starring Lon Chaney ! Also featuring
    living legend Carla Laemmle of “Dracula” fame (now age 101).

  115. I wish I had a stronger attention span, even as I was reading your post I had to open a notepad file and write this sentence just so’s I didn’t forget it by the time I had readthe whole thing. That’s bad isn’t it?

    Although I don’t check my phone when I’m with someone, just trying not to be rude I guess.

    I haven’t had the chance to watch a silent film, maybe this halloween I’ll rent out Nosferatu and make a night of it. Reading the film wouldn’t be an issue as I have subtitles on all the time anyways. I watched a silent film on a massive cinema screen in a park once with a guy next to the screen playing piano and I loved it.

    Nice blog post and I enjoyed reading it.

  116. The Writer says:

    Love your post. I adore classic film, but I have to admit I still haven’t gone much into silent film. I really do need to get my hands on some of the classics. Good thing I’ve got Netflix. Thanks for the review. I’ve heard so much about these films, but I’m a horror wimp, so reading reviews is probably the most I can do!

  117. Lovely post – your enthusiasm is infectious. Silent films really do repay close viewing and screenings with live music are by far the best way to do that – it’s a great night out too. Readers in London, UK, or nearby might like to know that both Caligari and Nosferatu are showing this week, with music from the band Minima. Highly recommended. You can find full silent film listings for London on my site at http://silentlondon.co.uk/calendar/ Keep enjoying the silents!

  118. David says:

    I’m a 23 year-old still fighting an uphill battle to get some of my friends to appreciate movies made before 1980! I love silent movies as well, but for now I only share that enjoyment with my father. My first silent films were some Chaplin shorts, which were hilarious (duh), but my first feature, the film that really showed me the greatness that came from the silent era, was Murnau’s The Last Laugh (1924). Such a powerfully emotional film, with nary a subtitle to be seen (except one near the end, which is unnecessary story-wise). Since then I’ve seen and loved Metropolis, Nosferatu, and Chaplin’s City Lights. Other greats are on my To-See list.

    As for musical scores, I usually just mute them for the silent films. Watching 1931’s Frankenstein was particularly annoying because it was on TV with a modern score by Philip Glass (whom I normally like) that just never let up with the violins. And because it isn’t a silent film (though early enough to be filmed beautifully like one), if I muted it I would miss the dialogue! Very annoying. It takes more concentration to watch a silent film that is truly silent, but the experience is worth it.

  119. zaroff says:

    marvelous remarks.. may i add that the symphonic use of accompanying music to silent cinema, particularly supernatural/horror/fear films is often enough to prompt the listener to invest in greater attention. How could anyone be inattentive to a variation of Beethoven for example..or Berlioz, maestros that summoned purpose & suspense from the stillness before their crescendos.

  120. MotherFirefly says:

    I can’t tell you how happy I am to see both The Man Who Laughs and Metropolis listed in this thread.

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