May 26, 2012 Opening “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”
The Cabinet of Caligari covers the three M’s: Murder, Madness and hypnotisM. You might think that if you’ve seen one film about a mad scientist-type who uses his henchman to do his bidding, then you’ve seen them all, but this one will bewilder and delight your corneas with its bizarre, askew-to-the-max aesthetics.
Caligari (Werner Krauss) first shows up at the fair, where he is showing off Cesare, his “Somnambulist” buddy who sleeps 24 hours a day in a coffin, at least, when he isn’t predicting the future or committing violent crimes. Francis, the hero of the story, is checking out the attraction with his friend, Alan. Apparently, constant sleep has the side effect of Knowing All, so Caligari invites his audience to ask good ole Cesare anything, anything! Alan asks Cesare when he will die, and Cesare answers, before dawn tomorrow. He didn’t even really have to think about it.
Alan meets his fate, just as predicted, becoming the poster child of a series of unexplained murders in town.
So, that’s the setup. Francis, do-gooder that he is, sets out to solve the crimes, while attempting to protect his fiance, Jane, from the murderer. And Jane plays the stereotypical role of Damsel in Distress, but with a touch of that “faraway eyes” syndrome that the Rolling Stones sang about once. Caligari straddles that familiar line between madman and psychotherapist-messiah, while spidery Cesare does what he can to deal with what appears to be a gnarly case of narcolepsy.
What sets this movie apart from all of the silent movies I have seen so far, and really most films in general, is how it looks, which is completely insane. It’s a real showpiece of German Expressionism, which may make you think to yourself, “Hey, I didn’t know they had acid in the 1920s!” There is not a line that isn’t askew, a door jamb that doesn’t give way to asymmetry. And that stylized approach suits Calgari, a film that questions perspective, reality and sanity.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, 1920
Directed by: Robert Wiene
Starring: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Fehér, Lil Dagover
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Mix Contains:
1. St. James Infirmary / Sidney Bechet
2. Hurry on Now (Boub Remix) / Alice Russell
3. 30 Second Air Blast / The Almighty Defenders
4. Memories of the Ghetto, Augustus Pablo
5. Derelict / Beck
6. Ball and Chain, Big Brother & the Holding Company
7. Drippy Eye / Black Moth Super Rainbow
8. Policy of Truth, Depeche Mode
9. How We Quit the Forest / Rasputina
10. Traffic Boom / Piero Piccioni
11. Lullaby / The Cure
12. Four O’Clock in the Morning, The Hassles
13. Drag Stripper / Monster Zoku Onsomb!
14. One Man, One Vote, Frank Zappa
15. Gouge Away / The Pixies
16. Sure ‘Nuff ‘n Yes I Do, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
17. Something’s Got a Hold on Me / Etta James
18. After Hours / Joe Kickass
19. Security, Otis Redding
20. Fee Fee Fi Fo Fum / LaVern Baker
21. St. James Infirmary, Louis Armstrong