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Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (Limited Edition 4K Review)

3 min read

First released in 1920, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, will always be one of the silent films that will live on through cinematic history. This German expressionism silent horror, originally inspired by the writers Carl Mayer and Hans Janowitz’s experiences during World War One, is known for the twist ending and story structure, which apparently were not included by choice by the writers.  Yet these devices are part of the reason the film has gained its iconic status, along with the style and design of the film that will forever be recognised.

The story is told through a flashback by Francis as he relates the ordeal, he and his fiancé Jane have experienced. In Francis’ hometown, murders and strange occurrences take place after Dr Caligari brings his side show exhibition to the town’s fair. Caligari reveals his curiosity to be Cesare, a somnambulist, who he manipulates to answer the audiences’ questions. When Francis’ friend Alan asks ‘how long will I live?’, Cesare answers ‘You die at dawn’. Sure enough, Alan is found murdered in his bed the next day. Suspicions fall on Caligari and his somnambulist but the old man is far too crafty to get caught out. As Francis investigates, desperate for answers, he stumbles about a twist of fate and the truth behind Caligari’s plans.

Noting the difference in style from the prologue and epilogue to main part of the film, the flashback is theatrical in appearance. Set in a nightmare world of shadows and what looks like, cardboard cut-outs, with a fantastically eery score that has you on edge for the majority of the film. Fear and fantasy are melded together with help from the score, to create the gothic unnaturalistic style that truly makes the story and characters come to life. There are such fantastic details that might have been missed on a normal viewing but now in 4K, nothing is missed. Including the three lines on Caligari’s white gloves, somewhat familiar now to any Disney fan but strange to see in this horror-scape. From the exaggerated make up, to the overly styled dramatic moments, the world of Dr. Caligari feels unreal but there is something about wanting to go further into the cabinet as curiosity takes over.

The transfer is marvellous, evoking every shadow, every detail, bringing us closer to the nightmarish world these characters inhabit. There is something very special about the restoration of the silent era films as these were the inspiration for generations of filmmakers across many genres. Dr. Caligari is the film that can see its influence in horror, film noir and even science fiction. With a host of special features to accompany this new restoration of this classic, the film can continue to inspire.

Features in the limited edition include:

  • Limited Edition hardcase featuring artwork by Kevin Tong (Tragic Sunshine)
  • 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation from the extensive restoration completed by FWMS in 2014
  • Limited Edition 100-PAGE BOOK featuring archival writing and articles including vintage writing on the film by Lotte H. Eisner; an original Variety review of the film; rare imagery; and more
  • Score by Cornelius Schwer (2014) – LPCM stereo and 5.1 surround options
  • Score by Uwe Dierksen & Hermann Kretzschmar (2019) – LPCM stereo
  • Original German intertitles with optional English subtitles
  • Brand new audio commentary by Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
  • Audio commentary by film historian David Kalat
  • The Asylum in Film – brand new interview with author / critic Kim Newman
  • You Must Become Caligari – video essay by film critic David Cairns
  • Caligari: The Birth of Horror in the First World War – 52 minute documentary on the cultural and historical impact of the film
  • On The Restoration – three short video pieces on the film’s restoration
  • Trailer

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is released on 4K Ultra HD™ on 5th December