Monday, March 3, 2014

Indie Flix: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (2005)

I must again- how have I not reviewed this yet?!?  Today's film is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari...or rather the 2005 Remake- now with Sound!  There's an extra special irony to that bit, but I'll get to that later.  Just a note: the Original Dr. Caligari is a great, great movie.  It introduced surreal imagery into Cinema (it may not have been the first, mind you) and is often credited with giving us the first Twist Ending in Cinematic History.  Suck it, Shyamalan!  So that begs the question: why Remake it?  Well, let's be honest, some people will not watch Silent Films.  Heathens!  All kidding aside, I totally get it.  The movies aren't in Color, you have to pause to read the Cards and the Acting seems over-the-top.  As a fast reader, I find myself always like a minute ahead of the Cards- I get it.  Some eighty-five years or so after the Original, someone did a Remake.  It has Sound, it has an expanded Story and it makes interesting use of the original sets.  The Original is famous for its surreal Set Design, with doors that open upwards and bizarre, angular bridges.  If you ever said to yourself 'Set Design isn't that important,' then watch the Original film.  The Story involves the titular Doctor coming to Town and murder quickly following him.  Are him and his somnambulist servant Cesar behind it?  Is there more to the Story?  To find out, you can either watch the original (I can wait) or you can read...
The tale is being told to a man on a bench by our hero.  If you don't know the how this Story goes, don't SPOIL it for your friend just yet.
Caligari comes to Town and opens up his show.  He doesn't get along with its owner- Holy Tuvok!- which certainly isn't a Plot Point for later.
His show involves bringing out his Somnambulist (aka a Sleepwalker) Cesar who can predict the future via his dreams.  Our heroes unhinged friend asks about his future, only to be told that he will die in one day.

The prototype John Edwards was a bit creepy.
Sure enough, he gets killed.  This following a couple recent killings, including Tuvok from earlier.
Cesar in the film is played by Doug Jones, a man who appears often as a Suit Performer.  Twice in his Career he actually had dialogue- as Abe Sapien in Hellboy and as The Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four II-, only to have the Studio(s) hire a guy to dub over it.

So, at this point, one of his few Speaking Roles is in the Remake of a Silent Film.  Irony?
Our hero takes the whole thing personally, especially when his love interest is nearly killed by Cesar.  He stakes out the place where his kept...but he never leaves.

If he didn't leave while a killing happened, what...happened?
I just want to take a moment to highlight the way the film uses the Original footage.  For some of the better back drops from said film, they put them in digitally.  It is pretty seamless.

Way to use the good stuff, movie!
The whole thing starts to wrap up, but still doesn't make alot of sense.  Let's just ask Cesar to...oh.
As it turns out, our hero is telling the story in an Asylum.  His friend- an Orderly.  Cesar- another Orderly.  Dr. Caligari- well, he's just an actual Doctor.

Say it with me: What a Twist!  The End.
Everything about this is good.  So where do I begin?  You take a Film Classic and you essentially just make it with Sound.  Yeah, there is more to it though.  Much like Call of Cthulhu, they do more than just stick people in front of Green Screen Footage.  It is no Amazing Bulk.  Darn?  They take the film, don't mess with it and make it more accessible.  Everyone is good, toning down the pantomime that came with the Original being a Silent Film.  I have no complaints about any of the performances honestly.  If you can't make it through a Silent Film (heathen), then check this version out.  It is up there with solid Remakes of Silent Film Classics like Nosferatu, Nosferatu: The Goth Industrial Mix and Shadow of the Vampire (with a bit of a stretch).  There are alot of Nosferatu Remakes by the way.  Anyhow, this is an underrated Indy Film worth a look.  I got it for like $2 from a Hollywood Video.  Your results may vary.  Take us away, Producers leaving in a German sign in the footage.
Next up, I cover one of the more infamous film sequels ever made.  It has no nukes, but it does have a coked-up Comedian.  Stay tuned... 

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