Public Domain Theater: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (& “The Mad Doctor”)

Welcome to Public Domain Theater, your home for the wonderful world of films that have (in the United States, at least) fallen into the public domain, and are free for everyone to see!

And welcome, also, to the month of October, that time of spooks and spirits, ghosts and goblins, poltergeists and pumpkin spice. To celebrate the spookiest season of all, we have for you one of the first truly classic horror films: the 1920 silent masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Regarded as the prime example of German Expressionist cinema, it’s renowned for its bizarre, surreal, and unsettling set designs, making everything feel as if it’s happening during a demented acid trip. If nothing else, you need to see this film so you know what it is Tim Burton’s always imitating.

To go along with this picture, we have an opening cartoon that’s also a horror themed tale, featuring a mad scientist and surreal locations, and starring . . . Mickey Mouse!? Yes, believe it or not, there are a couple Mickey Mouse cartoons that have fallen into the public domain, even if we’ve still got four years to wait before Steamboat Willie finally loses its copyright. You may recognize the titular Mad Doctor from this short as one of the main villains in the Epic Mickey video game series.

So come on into the mad scientist’s lair, brush the cobwebs aside, turn down the shrieking skeleton, and have yourself a chilling good time!

Opening Cartoon:

Feature Presentation: