The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Goodtimes, 1990. Also, Image Entertainment, 1997 (DVD)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

This landmark German expressionist film set the tone for horror for years to come. A strange doctor comes to a village fair with a "somnambulist" who tells fortunes. Soon after his arrival, strange murders start happening. A young man solves the mystery by discovering that the doctor is the head of a local insane asylum and is using a strange cabinet to carry out the experiments of an 18th-century crazed monk named Caligari in controlling the behavior of a catatonic patient, including making the patient commit murder. The young man calls on the law to confront the mad doctor Caligari, who ends up locked up in his own asylum, raving mad. But the story is told in the young man's flashback––and he turns out to be the insane one! This is one weird film, especially for its time. Especially weird are the bizarre, twisted sets––everything that should be straight and rectangular (such as walls, doors, windows, etc.) is instead slanted and curved at wacked-out angles. This adds to the nightmarish quality of the film, which is also enhanced by the fact that you can't tell the sane from the insane half the time. A recommended early landmark in weirdness. A 1919 German film. The Image Entertainment DVD features a beautifully restored version of the film, with a great soundtrack by Timothy Brock, and incredibly cool title cards done in an expressionistic font. It is the most highly recommended version of the film.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.


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