The 1920's was a significant era in the history of cinema. One of the distributers of silent films was Germany. The style of German expressionism was very popular at the time in films. German Expressionism is a style of design with almost no straight shapes, it's all curved, uneven and anything but realistic. One of Germany's most well known films is "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" released in 1920, this film epitomized German Expressionism. It is considered to be the first true horror film. It was a film about a doctor who has a cabinet, and in it is a monster that does what ever his will pleases. It went down in history as one of the most artisticly influential films of all time.
In 1922 German director F.W. Murnau released "Nosferatu", a vampire film starring Max Shreck as Graf Orlok. It was originally intended to be a Dracula film but F. W. Murnau, the director, was not able to acquire the rights to the name from Bram Stoker's widow, so instead they called it Nosferatu. The film was so scary at the time of it's release it was actually banned in Sweden until 1972, fifty years after it's release.
A lot of the American films at the time were comedies like the Harold Lloyd pictures or Swashbuckling adventure films like the ones from Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. there weren't that many horror films being released, but then came a man named Lon Chaney.
Lon Chaney brought horror cinema to America in a big way, he used self-applied make-up to transform himself into the most grotesque monster imaginable that bore little resemblence to himself, thus earning the name "The Man of a Thousand Faces". The 1925 motion picture The Phantom of the Opera was a hit and was one of the first batch of Lon Chaney films released in 1925. The Phantom of the Opera was known not just for Lon Chaney's performance, and an opening sequence that was one of the first scenes in a motion picture to be filmed in color. Lon Chaney's last film was "The Unholy Three" in 1930, the only film he starred in that had sound. Chaney died later that year along with the silent film era.
In 1927 German director Fritz Lang released Metropolis. At the time it was the most expensive movie ever produced. The film was an enormous hit all across the world. The production design of this film influenced future filmmakers such as Ridley Scott for his work in the 1982 motion picture Blade Runner, and Tim Burton's work on Batman.
In 1928 a film, directed by Pual Leni titled "The Man who Laughs" was released. The film follows a nobleman's infant son who's face was carved into a permenant smile by the King who wanted revenge for his father's betrayal. The film stars Conrad Veidt as the title character who's real name is Gwynplaine. He then grows up to become a clown.
In 1929 "talkies" as they were called, or films with sound, started to emerge. But America was where they were found the most because film studios overseas could not afford sound film because it was so expensive. Silent films began to die out because of talking films and ushered in what people call the "Golden Age" of Hollywood. In 1976 filmmaker Mel Brooks made a movie called "Silent Movie". The film was both a parody and homage to the era of silent films, and had an all star cast. And the film's only line of dialog was spoken by the famous mime Marcel Marceau.
By Caleb DeJarnette
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