The Austin Chronicle

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Not rated, 67 min. Directed by Robert Weine. Starring Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher, Lil Dagover.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 15, 1994

No mere presentation of this 1919 pinnacle of German Expressionist filmmaking, this revival is in a special category -- a Dick Price presentation. That means that this silent classic comes with an original soundtrack composed by Price exclusively for this movie and performed live at each screening by Price and accordion accompanist Mike Maddux. Over the last year, Price and the Dobie Theatre have presented two other silent films (Nosferatu and Aleita, Queen of Mars) in this fashion, thus The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is the continuation of the series. Caligari is often cited as the first true horror movie and one of the first films to tell its story through the eyes of a delirious madman. Curiously, though it is considered a milestone in film history, its technique is rarely imitated. Eschewing naturalism, the movie's sets are all painted in hallucinatory black-and-white designs by painters Hermann Warm, Walter Reiman, and Walter Röhrig (all with the magazine Sturm), and the acting, as well, follows Expressionistic techniques popular in Germany at the time. The story concerns a hypnotist/psychoanalyst, Dr. Caligari (Krauss), who trains his obedient somnambulist Cesare (a spookily tall, skinny Veidt) to do his evil bidding. With its painted shadows, twisted perspectives, skewed angles, and bizarre reality, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has become one of the most famous yet least copied films in the history of the cinema. This hallmark of German Expressionism will include new title cards prepared by Price and his collaborators, as well as the debut of Price's original score.

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