Das Cabinet Des Dr Caligari

Sunday, 28 September 2014 23:00 Written by 

Dr Caligari on Dual format Blu-ray and DVDReleased almost a century ago, "Das Cabinet Des Dr Caligari" is a deliciously ghoulish movie about a travelling showman and his bizarre act. The titular Dr Caligari (Werner Krauss) is accompanied by Cesare (Conrad Veidt - "Casablanca"), a fearfully gaunt and skinny somnambulist who is roused to predict people's futures. Soon after Caligari sets up his carnival tent in the German town of Holstenwall, a spate of murders begins.

A local inhabitant called Francis (Friedrich Feher) starts to investigate the killings and suspects that Caligari is somehow involved. With those close to him in danger, can Francis solve the case in time? Robert Wiene's film went on to influence many horror and thriller directors, and the dramatic twist at the end of the movie predates the work of M. Night Shyamalan and David Fincher by many generations.

"Dr Caligari" is so stylised and accessible that one instantly forgets it is a silent, monochrome movie made in 1920. The high-definition re-master is exquisitely sharp, and the noise that remains on the print adds a timeless atmosphere. Shot two years before "Nosferatu", the film shares that vampiric tale's sinister tone and sense of creeping dread, but it also seems to have a more playful edge that compliments the horror well.

Krauss is brilliant as Caligari, moving with an unnerving, stilted shuffle whilst pulling all manner of troubling and hysterical facial expressions. This is not a man you would want to meet in a dark back alley, cloaked and top-hatted whilst scowling over his prominent glasses. His intriguing relationship with and command over the zombie-like Cesare beats at the heart of the film.

The sets are wonderfully striking, looking like something from a demented cartoon. They are claustrophobically angular, minimalist and boldly shaded like the world imagined by a madman. The creepy score helps to build the mystery and tension.

Fans of modern-day horror movies should definitely seek this gem out. It is brilliantly spooky now, so one can only guess at how it affected movie-goers a hundred years ago. As a historical relic at the birth of the genre it demands attention.

Special features include:

  • Brand new and exclusive audio commentary by historian David Kalat
  • “Caligari: The Birth of Horror in the First World War” - a new 52-minute documentary on the cultural and historical context of the film
  • “You Must Become Caligari” - a new video essay by David Cairns
  • On The Restoration - three short video pieces on the film's restoration
  • Theatrical trailer for 2014 reissue
  • 44-page booklet with new writing, reprints and rare archival imagery

Eureka never disappoint when it comes to bonus content, and this lot serves the film admirably. The main feature may be relatively short and sweet but the total package will keep you busy for hours.

“Das Cabinet Des Dr Caligari” (1920) is out now on dual-format DVD and Blu-ray (two discs), courtesy of Eureka. The main feature has a running time of 77 minutes approx, carries a 'U' certificate and retails for £19.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

Last modified on Wednesday, 01 October 2014 18:23

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