The Cabinet of Caligari
The Cabinet of Caligari (1962) is loosely inspired by the 1920 German expressionist classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and it's bad enough that one wishes the filmmakers stole more, if only because it might be slightly more entertaining. The film concerns Jane Lindstrom (Glynis Johns), whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, forcing her to look for help. She finds herself at the house of Caligari (Dan O'Herilhy), who takes her in and promises to assist her with her car troubles, but soon Jane comes to realize she's being held prisoner, while she has sessions with Caligari that play like mockeries of psychiatry. Around the house there are a collection of odd people, all of whom seem a little off, though some are more helpful than others, including Mark (Richard Davalos) and familiar Paul (O'Herilhy). Good movies should never be spoiled, so let's point out that Paul is Caligari, and the picture takes most of its inspiration from the original in that the majority of the story is a hallucination by an insane person. This redux was scripted by Robert Bloch, who gained prominence with his novel Psycho and often worked in television, as did director Roger Kay. And their small-screen roots show: The film is shallow and offers few chills or involving characters. And, seriously, the whole O'Herilhy-playing-two-characters thing is handled by him putting on a goatee, a wig and changing his intonations. As a thriller it's filled with lots of conversations that go nowhere, and there is never much of a sense of dread (even at Jane's kidnapping and imprisonment), mostly because of the third-act twist, which explains away everything that might have been in any way creepy in the first two acts. One hopes for a somnambulist to appear or for the doctor to go crazy, but in 1962 psychiatry was in vogue (Hitchcock made Marnie two years later), so its likely that Bloch was entirely too sympathetic to their work. The film's greatest asset is its black-and-white CinemaScope photography, though this too is hampered the story is almost entirely set in Caligari's house. Fox presents The Cabinet of Caligari in both anamorphic (2.35:1) and in pan-and-scan transfers with Dolby 2.0 stereo and the original mono soundtracks. Trailer, keep-case.