The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) – By Duane L. Martin

I’ve been a huge fan of silent films for many years now for one single reason.  They managed to create a genius level of art without the use of computers or sound.  Elaborate sets had to be built, actors had to tell a story with their physical movements and expressions, and different techniques had to be created for both practical effects and visual effects.  I’m honestly not sure that anyone in the film industry today would be able to achieve the level of art that was created back in the silent film days.  That brings us to this film.  Out of all the silent films it’s ever been my pleasure to view, this one stuck with me more than any other for one very specific reason.  The set design is absolutely brilliant.

What so special about the set design?  What’s so special about it is that they created a feeling a perspective and depth on sets that would have likely fit on the average stage.  They also used perspective to make the settings look incredibly surreal and nightmarish, which was the perfect accentuation to the story in the film itself, which is about a somnambulist that the evil Dr. Caligari is using to commit a series of murders.  For those who don’t know what a somnambulist is, it’s someone who walks either in their sleep, or someone who walks around in a hypnotic trance.  In the case of this film, the doctor claims that his somnambulist, Caesar, has been asleep for the entirety of his twenty-three year life, yet the fact that he’s waking him up now and then to eat and to commit the murders suggests that he’s actually under hypnosis rather than being a just a normal sleepwalker.

Kino Lorber has just release a new 4K restoration scanned from the mostly preserved camera negative at the German Federal Film Archive, and it looks and sounds absolutely spectacular.

For special features, this release includes a booklet essay by Kirsten Thompson, a documentary called Caligari: How Horror Came to the Cinema, an additional music score by Paul D. Miller, an image gallery and a restoration demonstration.

As of right now, this new blu-ray release from Kino Lorber is the definitive release of the film.  If you want the best, then this is the one you need to add to your collection.  I really can’t recommend it enough.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Kino Lorber website here: