31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 29: Genuine (1920)

dat set design.

dat set design.

Ah, Robert Wiene. If you haven’t seen the German director’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, then I guess you haven’t seen (arguably) the first proper horror movie (no, the whimsical, comedical French shorts from the 19th century don’t count). Genuine is a slightly later offering of his, and still sticking with the vampires theme, so Wiene’s clearly got a thing for the bloodsucking bastards.

It’s sadly not on par with Caligari; we do get the dizzying, eye-punchingly manic Expressionist set design (by César Klein), and the use of a hypnotic element to compel others to kill, but it’s not as tautly-plotted as the former classic. In fact, much of the story is piecemeal through the acting and title cards, so much of the nuance is lost, especially the turns in plot and character developments. It also ends rather abruptly.

The vampirism is less obvious than in Caligari (I feel like such an ass for continuously making this comparison), but the costumes and silent acting lend the very short (44-minute) piece a creepy, decadent air. I’ve read that the original cut was longer, and I’d love to find it, because I imagine that, well, condensing it into a half of itself punishes every element of the movie. For fuck’s sake, I’ve just seen an IMDb post that says their print is just 19 minutes. I guess nobody can agree on how long it was actually intended to be. Still worth a damn good atmospheric watch, whichever length you discover.

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