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Der Golem (Dir. Paul Wegener, 1920) Directed, produced and starring Paul Wegener The Golem is a masterpiece of early cinema.
The story centres on a Jewish community threatened with removal from the city under proclamation from the Emperor, which the head Rabbi, Rabbi Loew predicted in the stars.
Constructing a clay man to stop this oppression and calling upon ancient powers in a magical amulet, the creature is brought to life to protect its people.
Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde (Dir. John S. Robertson, 1920): John Barrymore's performance in this classic 1920 adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel, caused many critics at the time to acclaim him the greatest screen actor yet. With virtually no make-up and minimal camera-trickery, Barrymore relied on his considerable acting skills and his ability to contort his features (to the extent of dislocating his jaw), in order to make the transformation from the handsome, respectable Dr. Jekyll, to the hideous, debased Mr. Hyde, a veritable tour de force.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Dir. Wallace Worsley, 1923): Quasimodo (Lon Chaney) is the hideously distorted hunchback bell-ringer and servant of the cruel Jehan, brother of Dom Claude, the archdeacon of the famous Parisian cathedral of Notre Dame.
Living in the cathedral's bell tower, the creature is taunted and goaded from the street. Incited to attack one day, he is saved from the wrath of the law by a beautiful gypsy girl, Esmerelda (patsy Ruth Miller), with whom he falls in love. When Esmerelda is charged with stabbing the officer she loves Quasimodo spirits her away to the safety of the high bell towers.
The classic Victor Hugo story of the monstrous hunchback Quasimodo was given full star treatment by Universal Studios, who lavished more than $1 million on it. It took a full year to build the enormous sets needed and a further four months to film and more than 3,500 bit players and extras were hired. In the starring role, Lon Chaney (known as "The Man of a Thousand Faces") gave a masterly performance in a rubber suit covered with animal hair, plus a 72lb rubber hump, and strapped into a harness that prevented him from standing upright. To complete the grotesque make-up, his mouth was stuffed with mortician's wax, his hair was matted and the horrific bulging eye was fitted. All the discomfort and suffering was worthwhile as the film became a huge success worldwide and established Chaney as a major star.
Nosferatu (Dir. F. W. Murnau, 1922): F.W. Murnau's German silent classic is the original - and some say most frightening - DRACULA adaptation, taking Bram Stoker's novel and turning it into a haunting, shadowy dream full of dread.
Names had to be changed from the novel when Stoker's wife charged his novel was being filmed without proper permission. Running times vary depending upon versions of the film. Count Orlok, the rodentlike vampire frighteningly portrayed by Max Schreck, is perhaps the most animalistic screen portrayal of a vampire ever filmed.
The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari (Dir. Robert Wiene, 1920): In this silent, classic example of early German expressionism, this cinematic landmark relates the stylized tale of a Dr. Caligari, a fairground showman who hypnotizes an innocent villager - turning him into a sleepwalking "zombie" - and compels him to carry out fiendish murders. Inarguably a landmark in world cinema, Robert Weine's one-of-a-kind thriller features fantastical, heavily stylized sets, antirealist acting, and evocative subjective camerawork.