Blu-Ray Review: Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari / From Caligari to Hitler

There are a small number of films which are universally accepted as changing cinema forever. Described as “the first true horror film” by the late great Roger Ebert, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari was the most influential film of German expressionist cinema. The hi-resolution presentation of Robert Wiene’s film from Masters of Cinema breathes new life into the classic courtesy of a stunning restoration.

Francis (Friedrich Fehér) relates the story of how he met his fiancée Jane (Lil Dagover) to an elderly friend. The tale begins when Francis and his good friend Alan (Hans Heinrich von Twardowski) visit a carnival in their German mountain village of Holstenwall. The duo playfully vie for the attention of Jane. One of the main draws is Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) and a near-silent somnambulist, Cesare (Conrad Veidt). The doctor wakes Cesare once a day and boasts that he can answer any question. When Alan asks when he will die, the somnambulist tells him at dawn. When the prophecy is fulfilled, it begins a series of murders which terrorise the local population.

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari is a pivotal moment in cinema history. Written in the aftermath of World War I, the film casts a shadow of the prevailing socio-economic climate in Germany. It’s as much a film as a work of art. The beautifully jagged sets make great use of shadow and light. The latter being at a premium. Even the captions are a work of beauty in themselves. The expressionist style adds greatly to a sense of dread and peril. Of all the films from that era, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari is by far the most beautiful.

Based on the seminal book of the same name by Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler is a psychological study of German films between World War I and World War II. Filmmaker and narrator Rüdiger Suchsland takes the source text as a base in order to produce a fascinating documentary about one of the liveliest and most influential periods of cinema. Both Suchsland and Kracauer show the link between the exciting and dangerous times of the Weimar Republic and the escapism and experimentation of that period of German film-making. It’s a fascinating documentary for anyone with even a passing interest in film.

Special Features:

  • High-definition presentation, from the extensive FWMS restoration
  • Option of Stereo and 5.1 surround scores
  • Original German intertitles with optional English subtitles
  • From Caligari to Hitler: German Cinema in the Age of the Masses – A 2-hour documentary on German Cinema during the Weimar Republic (1918-1933)
  • Exclusive audio commentary by film historian David Kalat
  • You Must Become Caligari – Video essay by film critic David Cairns
  • Caligari: The Birth of Horror in the First World War – 52 minute documentary on the cultural and historical impact of the film
  • On the Restoration – three short video pieces on the film’s restoration
  • Trailer for the release of the new restoration of the film
  • 44-Page booklet featuring vintage writing on the film by Lotte H. Eisner; an original Variety review of the film; and rare archival imagery

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari/From Caligari to Hitler is released on Steelbook by Eureka Films as part of their Masters of Cinema collection today.

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