Featuring seven spooky silent films, ‘Dead Silent’ showcases cinematic masterpieces from the pre-sound era of movies, when filmmakers could blow minds and scare off socks with not a single scream or sound effect.
We begin with 1920 film The Golem, which, while principally about a giant monster made out of clay, also comments on the persecution of Jews in Prague at the time. Political allegory in horror is nothing new! Also from 1920 is Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, which features an evil hypnotist using his powers to have a sleepwalker commit murders for him as well as legendary set design that utilises the German Expressionism style to create thrilling yet nightmarish environments.
We also have Wiene’s The Hands of Orlac from ‘24 - proto-body horror that follows a poor pianist who loses his hands in an accident and gets replacement meathooks that he soon discovers previously belonged to a murderer! We’ve seen similar storylines across horror from Amicus to Hammer to V/H/S to Bodybags, but Wiene was freaking audiences out about body parts transplants with a murderous mind of their own over a hundred years ago.
A silent horror/genre collection wouldn’t be a collection of silent horror/genre films without arguably the two most well-known names in the muted shockers realm: F.W Murnau and of course Fritz Lang. Murnau is repped here by Nosferatu - the first vampire movie - and Faust, the famous tale of a demon betting God that he can corrupt a human’s soul.
‘Dead Silent’ features two Fritz Lang joints, one of his Dr Mabuse films: Dr Mabuse the Gambler and the sci-fi game-changer, Metropolis. Seeing Lang tell thrilling crime stories set in the German underworld that feature a Keyser Soze-esque character using mentalism to run rackets and strike fear into the hearts of the authorities even when they bang him up with nary a whisper of audio is a true lesson in cinema and filmmaking. Metropolis needs no explanation of its value or influence. As powerful and awe-inspiring now as it was in 1927, just imagine being in the cinema back then and seeing it for the very first time - the ushers must have been sweeping up brains from all the blown minds along with the spilt popcorn!
Tying everything together is From Caligari to Hitler: German Cinema in the Age of the Masses, a feature-length documentary that focuses on the Weimar Republic (1918-1933), the films it spawned and the effect they had on our collective culture.
ARROW’s ‘Dead Silent’ collection will mean you never look, or listen, to a film the same way ever again.