Saturday, December 16, 2006

THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI


This week's movie:
THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI

Widely considered the first psychological horror movie. Before optical printing, before IMAX, before blue screen, before CGI, before miniatures, before widescreen, before Technicolor, before sound.

Now Frank, why on earth would I want to watch a silent movie?

I'll be the first to admit, most silent films, although technical marvels at the time, just don't stand up to today's viewing. You can’t have a lot of dialog because you have to switch the scene to a title card every time. The acting is usually overly dramatic, and by today, even with terrific restoration technology, the picture is always somewhat faded and scratchy.

But there are some notable exceptions, such as this week’s film, THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI. “You mean that the sound is dynamic, with long engaging dialogue, and crystal clear picture?”

Well, no – not really. There’s not much dialogue, the acting is extremely melodramatic and the picture quality is for the birds. Furthermore, it’s not even all that frightening. “Well, Frank. That’s good enough for me! (sarcasm)” OK, smart aleck, I assure you this is one movie you’ll definitely want to see. Why?

  1. The atmosphere is eerie – very eerie, and eerie isn’t a word I use very often – so take advantage of it.
  2. It very effectively portrays a nightmare world. From the set design, right down to the writing on the title cards. This is quite an achievement considering the lack of technology in 1919, when this movie was released. It was literally years ahead of its time.
  3. The look of the set is strange and wonderful. With its crooked buildings and twisted landscapes, it’s crazy freaky – like living in a Dr. Seuss world.
  4. Alternate title: “The Cabinet of Dr. Seuss, Except That He’s Not a Very Nice Guy and I Think He May Be Tripping a Little”.
  5. This film is all about style. It’s no less stylish than films like Sin City, Kill Bill, or The Sixth Sense.
  6. No two walls are parallel.
  7. It has a plot twist at the end that would make M. Night Shyamalan proud.
  8. Ranks #165 in IMDB top 250 Films, between The Day the Earth Stood Still and Gone With the Wind.
  9. Scored a 100% on the tomatometer.
  10. This film also appears in Steven Jay Schneider’s book, “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”

I started watching this movie by myself because I figured that no one else would be interested in seeing a silent film. As people walked through the living room, and saw what I was playing, they, one by one, sat and watched the rest of the movie with me. They seemed to get over that whole “silent movie thing” pretty quick, and I think you will too. There’s a lot here to hold your attention.

Murder – madness – masterpiece.

Enjoy

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