A hybrid of documentary and fiction, this silent film explores the history of witchcraft, demonology and satanism. It shows representations of evil in a variety of ancient and medieval artworks, offers vignettes illustrating a number of superstitious practices and presents a narrative about the persecution of a woman accused of witchcraft. The film ends by suggesting that the modern science of psychology offers important insight into the beliefs and practices of the past.
A wax museum owner employs a poet (William Dieterle) to create stories for his pieces. The poet dutifully pens disturbing tales, envisioning himself as a significant character in each story — a baker sentenced to death by the Caliph of Baghdad (Emil Jannings), a Russian prince contending with the deadly paranoia of Ivan the Terrible (Conrad Veidt) and a man who is pursued through the haunting streets of London by Jack the Ripper (Werner Krauss).
Considered a lost film for years, the 1910 short based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the book’s first film adaptation.