Before beginning to write this review I read a couple of the previous reviews, and one person said something that summed up my thoughts quite well. You Tim Burton fans will see stuff here that was obviously a large influence on him. Specifically, the sets. You can imagine movie-goers of that era feeling as if they were seeing an alternate world as they watched this movie.
I think my thoughts on this movie will differ from those of most of the reviewers, though. I think the sets and the look of the characters are the most interesting things about this movie. Is it actually from 1921, though? On the VHS I have, it says "released in 1919" right on the box. Beyond that, the camerawork and production values seem to be quite a bit less than the those of many other films from the early '20s.
This movie has its moments, but if you really want to see a movie from the early '20s that is psychotic and strange even by many of today's standards, try Haxan, from 1922. For those of you who think Dr. Caligari or the flying monkeys scene from Wizard of Oz are creepy or scary, you will be utterly horrified by Haxan. Haxan is a movie that couldn't have been made by American studios until probably the late '60s... and lots of people still would have been outraged even then, I'm sure.
Haxan has better cinematography and production values, and every aspect of it is more twisted and evil than anything in Caligari. Plus the acting is alot better. Caligari is worthy as an historical artifact and for its influence, but Haxan is better in every single way. There are things in Caligari that are laughably bad or just boring. Haxan is a twisted masterpiece of evil and perversion, and worthy of many more viewings.
Having said this, if you are really into Dr. Caligari, Mark Dresser (incredible bassist, improvisor, composer) released a music cd of the same name. His The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is available on this website in the music section.
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