Mrs. Van Houten is having a relapse with her nymphomania. Concerned for her health her husband, Les Van Houten, calls Dr. Caligari who agrees to fix his wife but in reality, Dr. Caligari only wants another guinea pig for her wild experiments.
Every once in awhile there comes along a movie with ability to melt your brain...After talking with my buddy Carlos about the latest movie from Breaking Glass Pictures, "Asylum Seekers". He had mentioned that the movie reminded him a lot of "Dr. Caligari" with the eccentric patients in a bizarre insane asylum. Now I had seen "Dr. Caligari" many many years ago on Cinemax -- I and others love to make cracks at Cinemax's expense for all the softcore porn they've aired but they've also played some great movies too, like "Orgazmo". Anyway, I had seen "Dr. Caligari" but couldn't remember a thing about it beyond the sex since at the time I'm sure that was the only reason why I watched it. So I figured with what he said it was time to finally revisit the good doctor before reviewing "Asylum Seekers" and now after finally re-watching it -- I wish I would have come back sooner.
"Dr. Caligari" is one of those movies that has some semblance of a plot but really what the movie is about is the experience from watching it rather than storytelling. It's an odd concoction of absurdism mixed with surrealism while bouncing between comedy, horror, and science fiction. Though what makes it a truly unique experience is that movie is filmed and plays out more like you're watching performance art or an off-off Broadway play. Wildly over-the-top eccentric dialogue that walks between being absurd brilliance and ludicrous pretentiousness that is accentuated by monotone deadpan delivery.
People who are familiar with Stephen Sayadian's work like "Café Flesh" or "Nightdreams" will feel right at home with "Dr. Caligari" -- minus the penetration and money shots, of course. For everyone else, it will be a test to see who can appreciate what the movie is and those who will merely think it's "dumb" because of how far gone from the norm it is. It's understandable to an extent; this isn't a movie anybody can enjoy with actors voguing as opposed to performing, the overall look being heavily inspired by German expressionism, and nightmarish sets having the aesthetics of a stage play as opposed to something real. "Dr. Caligari" is the type of movie that Robert Downy Sr. would live for which can only mean a very niche crowd can enjoy it.
And I don't mean to make it sound like this is the weirdest movie you'll ever see but it will be one of the more unique ones because of the brazen sexuality and bizarre nature that also has an odd blend of different ideas, themes, and styles yet it all works perfectly. It's as if David Cronenberg and John Waters (Anybody who compares "Dr. Caligari" to David Lynch is an asshole.) got together to make a modern (modern for 1989) day "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" -- though there is no real connection between the two Caligari movies even though one is suppose to be a sequel. The fact that everything about the movie is more exaggerated and showy and then uses "flesh" as a constant running theme for the story and imagery makes it hard not to be drawn into the world and become fascinated by its mere existence. The movie is far from senseless and being without reason but you have to have an understanding and willingness to appreciate the nothingness of artistic absurdism. That is if you want to be able to understand why "Dr. Caligari" is a worthwhile forgotten little movie and to enjoy it yourself.