Director: Roger Kay
Fox Home Video

Using the title of a silent German 1919 classic (though subtracting the “Dr.” prefix, and no "cabinet" to be found in the film, unless they're talking about where he hides his booze), 1962’s THE CABINET OF CALIGARI is one of those films that seemed to have vanished into oblivion. It was rarely seen since its theatrical debut until it popped up on the USA Network (back in the 80s, when they actually had worthwhile programming), but more recently it aired on the Fox Movie Channel. Low and behold, Fox has now decided to release the film onto DVD (it was never before available on home video), miraculously with a nice widescreen transfer.

Driving barefoot on a barren highway, Jane Lindstrom (Gynis Johns, VAULT OF HORROR) hikes off to a nearby estate when her fancy convertible breaks down. Greeting her is the bearded Caligari (Dan O’Herlihy, HALLOWEEN 3, ROBOCOP) who promises to help fix the car and offers her a room. It turns out that rather than being a guest, Jane becomes a prisoner, and she's flashed obscene picture cards, asked a number of intimate and sexual questions, and peeped upon by her captor. While trying to find an escape route, she socializes with a number of other seemingly friendly guests (including Estelle Winwood and J. Pat O'Malley) and develops a sort of romance with one of them (Richard Davalos, from Jack Hill’s PIT STOP). Jane eventually thinks she’s uncovered Caligari’s inner weakness, so she attempts to defeat him by turning the tables on him.

Really a psychological drama in the guise of a horror film, CABINET OF CALIGARI was a box office turd scripted by Robert Bloch, who deemed this the worst of his filmed scripts, and reportedly director Roger Kay changed a lot of the dialog. It was obvious by the advertising campaign and Johns’ Janet Leigh-style hairdo (not to mention her parading around in her underthings several times) that Fox was trying to cash in on PSYCHO, but the studio-bound, talky picture is not even close, nor is it as fun as the William Castle knock-offs made around the same time. Several tricky shots are employed, such as Johns running in place from a swirling glass door, but these mostly come off as laughable. The eccentric characters are for the mosty part uninteresting, and Caligari’s house is nothing special, unless you count a revolving glass doll in front of his office. This mostly looks like a drawn-out episode of “The Twilight Zone” (though about 80 minutes too long) so viewers will either be intrigued or bored out of their skulls before the surprise ending.

Although without fanfare, you have to give credit to Fox for releasing a forgotten 60s title like this on DVD. That brings up another point. CABINET OF CALIGARI is Robert L. Lippert Production, released by 20th Century Fox. Ok Fox Home Video, how about DVDs of other Lippert productions you own, including WITHCRAFT, CURSE OF THE FLY and THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING?!!

Fox’s DVD of CABINET has the full screen pan & scan version on side A(?), but we'll just skip over that for side B and the widescreen version. Shown in the original 2.35:1 CinemaScope format with anamorphic enhancement, the black and white image looks superb. Detail is excellent with deep blacks and accurate whites, and no significant blemishes to be found. A Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is included here in both mono and stereo, with the latter being the superior of the two, exhibiting the score by Gerald Fried to great effect. An optional Spanish Mono track is also on hand. Extras include suggestions for other Fox horror movie titles and the original theatrical trailer. (George R. Reis)