Dr. Caligari presents itself as a sequel to Robert Wien’s silent masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. I’m not sure it quite succeeds in its attempt but I watched the whole thing to the end so its must have had some merit. I’m glad I held on long enough to see the bleeding birthday cake full of squirming intestines and a beating heart.
If Dr. Calgari is meant to be a comedy its not very funny. It seems like a comedy but it also seems like a high school play about puberty mixed with a Hieronymus Bosch painting and Un Chien Andalou. Actually, its not as coherent as that. You would need to ad some bad modern dance and Brian Yuzna’s movie Society to the mix to get the right feel. Oh, and a little porn too.
I do like the way characters slide in and out of frame as if on wheels. I guess you would have to file Dr. Caligari under “experimental” film. You could say it is a parody of The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari but it isn’t, its more like a crazed, free jazz, riff on the idea of Dr. Calgari.
Once you allow for the fact that you are watching something ridiculous and awful you can accept that it actually has its moments. Some of the practical effects are actually pretty good, like when a puss dripping, scarred and fleshy monolith licks a half naked woman dressed like a refugee from a Robert Palmer video.
The dialogue consists mostly of incoherent monologues like the following. “My feelings are like filthy prayers. I wanna scream in your face! I don’t care if Caligari sees. I can hear them breathing at the asylum. I know someone who has to tango. I know someone who has to move. When all the eyeballs scream. Stand still.”
As much as a this movie has a plot at all, the plot is pretty straight forward. Dr. Calgary, who looks like a cross between Cleopatra and Rachel from Blade Runner, is running an insane asylum and has some evil plan to switch people’s brains and turn everyone into a nymphomaniac. We follow Mrs.Van Houten (the one who looks like a refugee from a Robert Palmer video) as she undergoes strange sexual procedures. Then there’s this other patient who switches brains with a psychopathic cannibal and becomes a psychopathic transvestite. Maybe the plot isn’t so straight forward. It all comes to a climax when they try to overthrow Dr. Caligari. Through injections of brain fluid, Mrs.Van Houten switches minds with Dr. Caligari and so the patient becomes the doctor and the doctor becomes the patient. Then just as the film reaches a crescendo of confusion its mercifully over.
While I might hesitate to recommend it I did enjoy it, or at least some of it. There were visually interesting moments, and it managed to create its own style and atmosphere. It was written and directed by Stephen Sayadian who has also made such titles as Party Doll a Go-Go: Part 2, Cafe Flesh and Nightdreams 1, 2 and 3. Calagari was made in 1989 and if ever a movie looked like it was made in the 1980’s this is it. The whole film was like an 80s music video down to the muddy synthesizer meandering senselessly up and down the keyboard. I’m not sure what Robert Wiene, the director of the original TheCabinet or Doctor Caligari would have thought of Dr. Caligari but I’m guessing he wouldn’t want them to be mistaken for each other.If you enjoyed this article click here for more