Finally there is a version of THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI that shows it in such a way that it is now possible to understand the impact that the film must have had on audiences in 1920. Of course in order to fully achieve that effect it is necessary to try and view CALIGARI as a product of its time and realize that it is more an example of Expressionist art than a traditional movie yet its influence was profound. This new Blu-ray incarnation featuring the latest digital restoration techniques really brings out the artistic design of the sets with their harsh painted images and distorted angles. Never has the movie more resembled a work of art than it does here. In addition to the stylized sets, the remarkably theatrical make-up worn by Caligari (Werner Krauss) and Cesare (Conrad Veidt) has never been more available for study. Freeze a frame or two during their first appearance together and see how flamboyant and intense it is.
Although the immediate horror impact of CALIGARI has long been diminished by the more explicit movies that have followed in the nearly 100 years since it was made, it still remains the stuff of nightmares as its images seep into your subconcious mind and will linger long afterwards even if you aren't fully aware of it. That is something that CALIGARI's creators were striving for. For those who aren't familiar with the story, it's a relatively simple one. A series of horrific murders in a small town can be traced to a mysterious doctor at the local fair and the sleepwalker he exhibits. The allegorical nature of the symbolic figures of the film with what happened to Germany as a result of World War I are easy to see and show how it is possible for the power of genuine art to transcend time and space and remain valid although in a different way than when it was first created.
In addition to the quality of the restored images, what makes this release so valuable is the 52 minute documentary on the making of the film and an overview of German silent cinema. The restoration comparisons between now and 30 years ago shows just how far film preservation has come and how it is possible for these movies from another time and place and from a completely different mindset to still have the power to enthrall, move, and enlighten us. Of the many fine efforts from the F.W. Murnau foundation which has brought us quality versions of METROPOLIS and NOSFERATU and the DOCTOR MABUSE films, this version of THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI now takes top honors. An absolute essential to anyone interested not only in the cinema of the Weimar Republic but in the history and the power of the movies themselves.
Unless you dislike silent films, really the only concern here is making sure you get the best of many versions. As of 2/2015, the best version to pick up is the KINO 4K bluray. All except one reel is from the original negatives, and the missing reel is remade from a mix of the best remaining print versions available. The monochromatic colorization process chose colors based on the earliest remaining print versions (from South America of all places for a German film).
At 77 minutes, this was a long movie for the time, and despite some imperfections remaining in the film quality none are ever too distracting, even on 50" modern TV screens. The clarity is very good, and reveals details in both faces and set pieces I had never picked up on before in older versions. Given this was a visual work, it almost seemed like I was watching it for the first time. The monochrome colorized acts, some where everything is blue, sometimes everything yellow, sometimes pink based on time of day, location, etc. look great.
I'll let others describe the details of the plot, but basically this was the first "German expressionism" film and came out around 1920, with a spooky, carnival side-show vibe. The set was very intricate for the time and highly stylistic, with odd angled buildings, lots of shadow, and various disjointed features that look like something Tim Burton would have done if he was alive then. The movie is subtitled and has options for two different musical scores, one from the time period and one new. Starts a little slow but with a great ending, one which seems surprisingly sophisticated for the time but just probably means we are a little snobbish in how we think about the past today.
Bonus features are awesome. The booklet is not to Criterion standards, but is still very nice. Includes a still gallery that has some original movie posters, and most impressive is a 52 minute German (english subtitles) documentary that while highlighting the film also touches on a dozen others and is chiefly about the post World War I impact on German film making. Well worth every penny.
This review is for the Kino restoration of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari"; it comes with 2 soundtracks, and I watched it with the score by the University of Music, Freiburg (rather than with the score by Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky). This 1920 German silent horror film can be interpreted in so many ways as having any number of meanings. Watching it is like being in an avant garde Expressionist painting come to life. It's almost 100 years old, and still superior to the vast majority of films churned out by Hollywood in the past century.
A Great Restoration! This is the best restoration of a Silent Classic I have ever seen. Easy to read sub-titles & very clear movie quality. With most of the prints I saw (including the restored ones) it was still hard to follow the story. This one was different and the entire story is very clear and tells the story the way it was suppose to be. If you want the best - This Is It.
New and stunningly clear restoration of the classic of German silent cinema -- the film that influenced every horror film that came after. In this new transfer, you can see the expressionist painted sets and painted shadows, the bizarre angles, the faces of The Somnabulist and everyone else. No more looking through murk and fog, and constantly changing flickering. No more distracting horizontal line across the top of the frame! This looks like it was made yesterday. An enduring horror classic that helped define not only the silent German Expressionist cinema (which included the films of Murnau -- Nosferatu -- and Pabst -- Pandora's Box -- and Fritz Lang -- Metropolis). Finally, we can concentrate on the film and not on trying to SEE the film. You can even clearly see the shoe polish on the good doctor's hair!