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German expressionist cinema was at its height in the 1920s, and few films embodied the movement as much as Warning Shadows. Directed by Arthur Robison, this classic tale of psychological horror remains his best known work, celebrated for its outrageous visual style and notorious for its attempt to make a purely visual feature film - in other words, a film with no intertitles (except, of course, the opening credits).
A mysterious traveler and illusionist who performs shadow puppetry arrives to provide some entertainment at an otherwise routine dinner party. The host of the party is already mad with jealousy over the presence of his wife’s four suitors, but when the puppet show begins, passions overtake reason and reality is not what it appears to be. Shadows, reflections and silhouettes are the dominant imagery, and the film boasts the extraordinary camerawork of Fritz Arno Wagner, the German cinematographer who is renowned for his work with Fritz Lang (Spies, M) and F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu).
Although this marks the first time the film has been released on DVD in the United States, Warning Shadows has long been considered a landmark work by champions of the German cinema. Lotte Eisner, in her book "The Haunted Screen," declared that director Robison "handles phantoms with the same mastery as his strange illusionist," while Siegfried Kracauer, in "From Caligari to Hitler," simply stated that Warning Shadows "belongs among the masterpieces of the German screen."
"Arthur Robison's 1923 "Warning Shadows" looks stunning in a tinted print, though its narrative concerns - a visiting magician uses shadow puppets to reveal the erotic intrigues coursing through a 19th-century country house - seem puny compared with Lang's cosmic vision." - Dave Kehr, The New York Times
"A mesmerizing psychological thriller directed by Arthur Robison. What makes "Shadows" so unusual, even for the silent era, is that Robison made a truly visual film — there were no inter-titles, save for the opening credits, explaining the action." - Susan King, Los Angeles Times