Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat may begin with a torpedic blast, but it rapidly enters a maelstrom of sanctimony, dime-store impromptu romances, and heavy-handed propagandizing. It’s hard to believe that this rudderless tale about the sinking of an Allied freighter by a German U-boat during World War II was helmed by the same “master of suspense” who produced the gripping small-town drama Shadow of a Doubt only a year earlier.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari may not be the first horror film of all time, but it undoubtedly is one of the first to have a major influence on later movies in the genre. Directed by Robert Wiene (whose other films include Fear and Raskolnikow), Caligari exemplifies the expressionist style of silent movie-making that gained a foothold in Germany in the early 1920s and that would inspire the better-remembered Nosferatu (1922) based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Though not adapted from a work of literature, Caligari set the bar in capturing the macabre on camera, managing to be both cerebral and mesmerizingly creepy.