Robert Wiene’s Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari

Eureka! The Masters of Cinema series Ltd 2 Disc Blu-ray Steel Book edition

Review by Matthew E Banks © 2017

Cabinet of Dr Caligari Blu rayDas Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920) needs no introduction, it is one of the most influential horror films of all time and one of the most important German films of all time – along with, I would suggest, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) and F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922). Caligari is the foremost expressionist film of the Weimar Cinema and until a few years ago could only be seen in poor quality. In 2014 the film was re-released in cinemas in a stunning 4k restoration and is the most complete version of the film.

Eureka! have released this version as a limited 2 disc steel book blu-ray as part of their The Masters of Cinema series and it is an absolutely brilliant set. Before I discuss disc one, I shall talk about disc two, which is solely devoted to the documentary From Caligari to Hitler: German Cinema in the Age of the Masses – a steelbook exclusive!. This documentary, narrated in German, but subtitled, is the history of German cinema and is titled after the book by film critic and writer Siegfried Kracauer, which was published in 1947. Though it borrows the title, the documentary does not follow the book and in that instance is worth it for the restored clips that it uses rather than the basis for the definitive history of German film. regardless of this I really enjoyed it.

Disc one: Das Cabinet des Dr.Caligari comes in an 1080p transfer from the 2014 4K restoration with a choice of either a stereo sound or 5.1 surround sound scores. As an original German print release does not exist, the restoration was done using the original camera negative and as reel one was missing, it was reconstituted using alternate sources. Jump cuts and missing frames in 67 shots were reinstated from multiple prints. The intertitles are recreated from the flashtitles in the camera negative and the colour tinting comes from two nitrate prints from Latin America. These are the earliest surviving prints of the film. None of this diminishes away from the beauty of what is offered here – this is as near perfection as we are ever going to get from a film that is almost one hundred years old. Having only read about it and seen some grainy footage here and there (Yes, I know – shame on me!), to see it in its entirety like this, really takes you back to when it was first released, it looks fresh. For such an influential film, it appears to have only been remade once, in 2005!

The disc has subtitles, chapters and a commentary by film scholar and historian David Kalat. Also included are two further documentaries: Caligari: The Birth of Horror in the First World War – which is basically the making of the film and a video essay by David Cairns titled You Must Become Caligari. To top this set off, it comes with a 44 page booklet of vintage writing on the film by Lotte H. Eisner and rare archival pictures.

Eureka are fast becoming the studio releasing these fantastic films, breathing new life into these silent films. Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari (in this set) 10/10