Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Cabinet of Dr Caligari |
Actors: Judson Pearce Morgan, Daamen J. Krall, Doug Jones, Lauren Birkell, Neil Hopkins
Director: David Lee Fisher
Genres: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Follow a new twist in the warped road of delirium in this "remix" of silent film era classic! Writer and director David Lee Fisher scanned the original backgrounds of the 1919 German Expressionist classic and put speaking... more »
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David Lee Fisher's stunning "remix" of the classic silent ho
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 06/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" is considered to be the first great horror film, but I also think that the 1919 silent film from Germany is the first prime example of "cinema," by which I mean simply treating movies as art. With its angular sets and the exaggerated performances by the actors representing the dementia of the title character, director Robert Wiene's film is clearly the best example of German Expressionism with its abstract, expressionists designs provide severely angled corners, crooked lines, and objects highlighted by decorative stripes. If "Battleship Potemkin" opens us up as students of cinema to the possibilities about montage, then "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" does the same for mise-en-scene. The film also establishes many of the conventions of the horror film (e.g., the mad scientist, beauty and the beast), and when I reviewed it I commented that I was surprised the basic storyline had never been remade.
After watching "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Remix)" that statement is still true, because as the parenthetical part of the title points out this particular movie is a "remix" and not a "remake." This appellation applies because what director David Lee Fisher did was to shoot his actors against a green screen so that he could use digital scans of the original sets from the 1919 film. Then he added dialogue and sound to effectively bring the original silent film to life. Shot in black & white, Fisher's cast eerily resemble their counterparts in the original and I found myself thinking not how a 21st century audience would respond to this film, but what it would have done to one almost a century ago.
Of course the story is exactly the same in Fisher's remix: Daamen J. Krall is the mad doctor, who uses his somnambulist Cesare (Doug Jones, best known for last year's "El Laberinto del fauno") from his carnival sideshow to so his evil deeds, with Lauren Birkell as the damsel in distress. The film is framed by a rather clever plot device that turns the narrative upside down in the end, as a young man (Neil Hopkins) tells the story of Dr. Caligari's visit to the small German town of Holstenwall to an older one, as they sit together on a park bench. The cast also features Judson Pearce Morgan, William Gregory Lee, Richard Herd, and Tim Russ. There is a concerted effort to act in the style appropriate to the time of the original, albeit with much more physical restraint than was required in the silent era. The results are certainly uneven, but consistent with the atmosphere of the production, which is a fancy of way of saying on balance it works well within the framework of Fisher's remix.
The only thing you can really compare this 2005 film to would be Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot remake of "Psycho" in 1998, which is not fair because you do not even need to see both films to know who comes out ahead: Fisher wins as soon as you hear the two concepts, because while also following the original shot-for-shot he has added a significant new dimension with sound and dialogue. The original music by Eban Schletter deserves special mention because after the incorporation of the original backgrounds I thought the music was the most important element in making this remix work.
If you have not seen the original, then I doubt that checking out this remix is going to be worth the effort because you it is pretty difficult to appreciate an homage without knowing the homagee. But that does not mean you should go out and view them back-to-back. I did that with "La Femme Nikita" and "Point of No Return," which was a mistake. You need to fully come to terms with the original before you see a different version. In the end I was tempted not to round up on this remix for two reasons: the first was simply that the original is a classic and as much as I admired this effort it is not on the same level as the classic. The second reason was that I felt a bit short changed by the extras on the DVD since this time I really did want to know a lot more about how they did it.. However, the bottom line is that Fisher took a big risk with this remix idea and he carried it off big time, so I have to round up.
Who would have thought this would be good?
Gregory Holmes | 02/13/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I stayed away from this for quite a while since the original film is such a sacred cow and the thought of doing a remake seemed quite ill conceived. As I started seeing still images from the film I thought it looked pretty good but when I finally watched the trailer I decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did. David Fisher has done the impossible, making a remake of Caligari that is faithful to the original and still providing something new and exciting. The look of the film is incredible and it gives me an odd feeling to watch actors walking about on the original sets. Its sort of like coming into your own home and finding strangers living there. This film is very faithful looking to the original (as it should be since the sets of the original were scanned for the background of this film). When new sets have been constructed they look very much like the original sets. The cast, headed by Judson Pearce Morgan are all very good. The script is intelligent. The music is quite creapy. This new version really works on every level and if you are a fan of the original classic film then you should give this one a try."
Open the Cabinet
Robert Rootes | Wasilla, Alaska | 08/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've seen this done before: When Gus Van Zant took on Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, shooting it frame for frame from the original. I think the acting fell short in that film, and why it was a failure. Remakes are something that Hollywood loves, as much as they want recycled comic book movies. However, this film, using the "original" set designs, puts this in a superior quality achievement. It's refreshing to see a filmmaker want to tackle such a unique film. When Nosferatu was remade in in 1979 by Werner Herzog, I think it received the same skepticism. Though I love the original Nosferatu, I still think Werner Herzog's vision was fantastic (I own the DVD), this film goes beyond the blister packing remakes and keeps the same allure as the 1920 version. Of course, this was also remade in 1962 by writer Robert Block and directed by Robert Kay but moves beyond this personal claustrophobic vision. Great film for people who appreciate movie making. I recommend those who have not seen the 1919 (1920) version, should add it to their queue."
Intriguing But Little Known "Remix" of Classic Silent
B. Wells | Florida | 10/08/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As an avid film buff, I was surprised to pick up a copy of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and see that it was not a new DVD release of the 1919 German expressionist classic, but rather, a remix (read: remake) produced by a California independent in 2005. I generally keep up with film releases and had never heard a word about this new incarnation of "Caligari". At any rate, I was intrigued enough to buy the DVD. I'm glad that I watched it before getting around to reading some of the reviews here and on IMDB, otherwise I probably would have thought twice about making the purchase.
Having spent no small amount of time sitting through insufferable Hollywood "blockbusters" and independent products striving too hard for edginess, I have to say that I was surprised to have enjoyed this version of "Caligari" to the degree that I did. By filming the actors on a green screen and then superimposing their performances over footage from the original, the filmmakers have come up with a remake that is at once homage and yet uniquely original. The look of the film is gorgeous, with the black and white images of modern actors overlaying the glorious, Expressionistic sets from the 1919 original.
While the modern dialogue, at first, seems incongruous with the turn-of-the-century setting, it soon becomes obvious that this is no normal world but, at best, a timeless place in some parallel dimension where reality is subjective and the landscape itself is distorted. Personally, I think the dialogue adds to the atmosphere of unease, as does the creepy musical score. I found most of the performances to be effective, particularly Judson Pearce Morgan as Francis, Daamen Krall as Caligari, and Doug Jones as Cesare. Jones is better known for his amazing non-human characterizations in "Pan's Labyrinth" and the "Hellboy" films, and his work here, as the murderous somnabulist, is equally mesmerizing. Less successful, I think, is the performance of Lauren Birkell, as Jane, the object of desire for both Francis and his best friend, Allan. Though her look is spectacularly eerie--sort of a buxom and grown up Wednesday Addams--Birkell's performance doesn't really work; even when she's supposed to be fully in possession of all her faculties, she's sort of not there. That should add to her character's otherworldliness, I guess, but instead, it makes her performance seem disinterested, oblique. In all fairness, I've seen actresses such as Nicole Kidman give equally unsatisfying performances with the same flat line readings, in otherwise excellent (I thought) films.
It is obvious that director David Lee Fisher devoted a great deal of time and care in the planning and execution of this stylish and spookily effective film. And it's equally obvious that this was a labor of love which I think shows in every detail of this finely crafted "remix". Not only does the movie work as an homage to the original vision of German director, Robert Wiene, but it recalls the recent works of David Lynch as well. This "Cabinet" remix won't work for everybody, particularly most film purists, and those addicted to fast-moving, action-oriented horror films. But for patient audiences interested in seeing something familiar yet different, this latest vision of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" should prove to be a satisfying experience. I look forward to seeing future projects from David Lee Fisher."