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The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari 1919

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4.5 out of 5 stars (52) IMDb 8.1/10
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This classic piece of German expressionist cinema employs stylized sets, costumes and make-up to tell its story from a shifting point of view. Dr Caligari runs a side show at a fair where a somnambulist predicts someone's death and that night the person is murdered. The somnambulist turns out to be a lunatic from a local asylum and Dr Caligari the asylum's insane director.

Starring:
Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt
Rental Formats:
DVD, Blu-ray

Product Details

Discs
  • Feature universal
Runtime 1 hour 12 minutes
Starring Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Lil Dagover
Director Robert Wiene
Genres Horror
Rental release 16 November 2009
Discs
  • Feature universal
Runtime 1 hour 12 minutes
Starring Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Lil Dagover
Director Robert Wiene
Genres Horror
Studio EUREKA ENTERTAINMENT
Rental release 29 September 2014

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Blu-ray
Oh dear, don't think Jaffa has done any homework.
Just look at the (hd) comparison sequences currently online (easily found via usual search engines), and marvel at the astonishing quality of this major restoration by the FW Murnau Foundation. Mainly restored from an original camera negative, it is almost akin to watching the original takes - the image is rock-steady, the detail is incredible and missing frames have been reinserted with all the skill of a professional invisible mender. In short, this is one of the finest early film restorations ever completed, and is an absolute must for fans (and would-be fans) of Caligari, no matter how many other copies you may have.

And if you want to fully appreciate just what an amazing job the Murnau team has done, blu-ray will show it to you - the closest we can currently get in our living rooms to the original nitrate experience. My order is already in. Note: no connection with FWMF or Eureka, though I will confess to an undying love of the achievements of Anke Wilkening at Murnau.
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Format: DVD
Although "The Cabinet of Dr Caligari" is one of the best known and important silent films of our time, let me point out right away that this is no guarantee that it will appeal to everyone. For many, it is a particularly heavy, depressing and even dreadful film, but this only proves that it is successful in its Horror genre, as well as its experiment to blend commercial movie narrative with the modern art style of German Expressionism. By all accounts it was very successful, giving inspiration to other directors and actors in later years and still holding its own as a landmark in cinema history.

The first thing that strikes the viewer is that most of the sets are entirely artificial, sculpted or painted in extreme Expressionist style with angular shapes which convey a sense of distress, turmoil and dread - all the qualities one would find in the mentally ill, which is the underlying theme of this story. Just like gestures, make-up and acting styles like pantomime were often used in the silent film medium to express moods, feelings and concepts, so do the Expressionist sets in this film convey a great deal about the characters and story. The famous leading stars, namely Conrad Veidt, Lil Dagover and Werner Krauss wear extreme make-up in line with the use of strong light and dark contrasts often used in other German Expressionist films of the 1920s, and their acting style is perfectly suited to the theme and overall atmosphere of the film. It contains all the elements of a disturbing horror film with a mad scientist who has control over a somnambulist - a sleepwalker - to the point of apparently getting him to commit murders for him.
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Format: Blu-ray
This review is of the DVD from the 2014 Masters Of Cinema Restored Edition

So there is no doubt about it, I'll start this review by stating that the restoration is nothing short of stunning.

The previous version I have to compare it with is the 2002 Kino USA, which was considered pretty comparable to the previous Eureka. The difference in picture quality between the 2002 Kino & the 2014 MOC is similar to that of a 1 pound public domain silent dvd, & the new silent film, "The Artist" from last year. This restoration is that good.

And while I've got a bit more to say, that's really all that matters.

The running time is as follows: 2002 Kino 1:14.18, 2014 MOC 1:17.13.

As this is one of the most famous silent films in history, I would like to assume that most people reading this are familiar with the plot, so I'm going to avoid going there. In my opinion, along with Lang's Metropolis & Die Nibelungen, & Murnau's Faust & Nosferatu, Caligari is one of the top 5 surviving Weimar era German films. Some would say it's the best of the bunch, & while I would likely pick Nosferatu, I couldn't argue with a person who felt that Caligari was the best of the Weimar era expressionistic films.

Highly influential, it's also likely the most expressionistic in style of all of the surviving German silents. We also get great performances from several stars of the time: the great Conrad Veidt, in what was a very unique role for him (I would have loved to have seen him play Dracula), Werner Krauss, Lil Dagover, & a cameo from Rudolf Klein-Rogge (Metropolis).
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari us a stunning visual masterpiece, with (for the time) an innovative narrative. Many modern film makers owe this film a debt.

The visual style is arresting and disturbing, a triumph of German expressionism. Every set - the whole town, the forest, the asylum - everything is jarringly odd angles. There isn't a right angle to be seen. Think about the backdrops for Tim Burton's `Nightmare before Christmas' and you'll get the idea. It looks, to today's eyes, like the back drop to a cartoon. Back in 1920 it must have been a huge surprise to cinema audiences. As well as the set design is the use of unusual camera shots, odd perspectives, odd lighting that just add to the feeling of a surreal dream.

The story itself is the tale of a man, almost an automaton, whose will is totally subservient to the evil Caligari. It is a template that was copied many times by Hammer with their Frankenstein films. Caligari arrives at a small town fair, with a mysterious cabinet. Inside is Cesare, a somnambulist who has been asleep for 23 years, and is totally controlled by Caligari. In short order a series of mysterious murders are committed, and Cesare, under Caligari's influence, is the obvious suspect.

Throughout the film there are small plot twists and misdirection - there is a copycat murderer who makes Cesare appear guiltless for a while, and how can the hero of the tale, Francis, be watching Cesare doing nothing in Caligari's room when his fiancé is being kidnapped by the said somnambulist? But this is topped off by the big twist at the end. Francis follows Caligari to a lunatic asylum, where it transpires that Caligari is the director, and also quite insane.
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