One hundred years ago the world was treated to six horror films from Germany, Russia, Italy, and America. All silent, of course, these films run the gamut of horror subgenres and tropes; from curses and hauntings to obsession and revenge, from monster comedy to temptation and turmoil. Having been born in 1984 and growing up with the horror of my time and generation, it was always interesting to me to see the horror label put on certain films. I grew up with everything from ghosts and monsters to madmen and killers, etc. etc. The horror cinema of yesteryear were more dramas with the actual terror being in the dilemmas and inner torment of the characters. It’s fascinating how things work in cycles and the horror genre is no exception as just recently we’ve seen the rise of the omnipresent and aura of evil in films such as It Follows and even The Babadook. Frequently with older ‘scary movies’ I have to remind myself of the time and almost put myself in the mindset of ‘these terrors had never been seen before’. But I digress.
Once upon a time in 1917…
Fear (Furcht) – The German horror by Robert Wiene saw a collector steal a statue from a temple, only to be cursed and haunted by an Indian priest.
Weine would go on to make the classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari three years later.
A piece of Fear:
Known as a horror-comedy and parody, The Golem and The Dancing Girl (Der Golem und die Tänzerin) from Rochus Gliese and Paul Wegener is an interesting piece of film history. The German film fits in the center of a trilogy of sorts in between The Golem (1915) and The Golem: How He Came Into the World (1920), only in a bit of a twist: Paul Wegener – who played the titular role in the 1915 film – stars as an actor who impersonates the very screen monster as a prank when things go awry. I wasn’t able to find footage for this film and it is considered a lost film.
Satan Triumphant (Russian: Сатана ликующий) directed by Yakov Protazanov saw Satan rise to earth on a stormy night and toy with a pastor’s carnal desires. A tale as old as time: humanity versus the Devil’s temptations.
Really though, could there be a more metal title?
A piece of Satan Triumphant:
The Darling of Paris, directed by J. Gordon Edwards, is very loose adaptation of the 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo. The American silent film features classic romance/obsession of Esmeralda and Quasimodo (a role most famously portrayed later by horror icon Lon Chaney in 1923).
The Darling of Paris is a lost film.
Malombra, directed by Carmine Gallone, was based on a novel of the same name. This Italian film features a young woman learning of an ancestor driven to death by her uncle and decides to take revenge.
Hilde Warren and Death (Hilde Warren und der Tod) was directed by Joe May with a screenplay by the great Fritz Lang. A famous actress is impregnated by a convicted murderer and becomes plagued by visions of an extremely gaunt and sepulchral Death.
A piece of Hilde Warren and Death: