Conrad Veidt in The Hands of Orlac (1924, dir. Robert Wiene) (via)
Son of Frankenstein (1939, dir. Rowland V. Lee) Expressionistic set design by art director Jack Otterson.
Designed by art director Stephen Goosson, the city set was an elaborate miniature model that covered a ground area of 75 x 225 feet and whose tallest tower measured 40 feet.
Just Imagine’s New York was primarily inspired by architect Harvey Corbett’s prediction that 1970’s New York would resemble a “very modernized Venice” and by the futuristic urban designs presented in Hugh Ferriss’s 1929 book, The Metropolis of Tomorrow.
Ferriss’s drawings of the ”business center of the future” (pictures #3-5) provided the most direct inspiration for Goosson’s sets. Broad superhighways establish a geometric ground plan that extends upward through overlapping levels of bridges, streets, and terraced walkways. The grid of streets and bridges is pierced by huge freestanding skyscrapers surrounded by lower setback buildings, a design Ferriss created as an analogy to the natural world of “towering mountain peaks… surrounded by foothills”
The opening scenes of the (otherwise mediocre) film, which feature this cityscape, can be seen here.
Above, poster art for The Golem (1920, dir. Carl Boese & Paul Wegener); below, still from The Golem (via)
Poster art and set design by Hans Poelzig.
The Holy Mountain’s “Cathedral of Ice” (1926, dir. Arnold Fanck) (via)
The 50 ft. tall cathedral was constructed from ice painstakingly shaped for months on an armature of metal pipes.
Pictured above is the Martian royal palace set from Aelita, one of the earliest science fiction films and among the first films to come out of revolutionary Russia.
Intended as an ideologically correct counterweight to Hollywood films, Aelita tells the story of Earthling visitors to Mars who stir up a proletarian rebellion among Martian slaves, overthrow the monarchy, and establish the “Martian Union of Soviet Socialist Republics”
Conrad Veidt & Lil Dagover in The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (1920, dir. Robert Wiene) (via)
“I realized that the sets had to deviate completely in form and design from the usual naturalistic style. The images had to be like visionary nightmares - averted from reality, they had to acquire fantastic graphic form. No real structural elements could be recognizable…[Co-art director Walter] Reimann, who applied the Expressionist painting technique in his designs, succeeded with his idea that this subject had to have Expressionist sets, costumes, actors, and direction…
Furthermore, I would like to say that sets should remain as background in front of which the action takes place, reflecting it and supporting the actor, who is after all supposed to have the major supporting role. In Caligari, this relationship is reversed. In this single special case I will concede that the sets became the major means of expression.”
-Caligari art director, Hermann Warm (Caligari & Caligarismus)