Dr. Caligari (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the 1989 film. For other uses, see The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
Dr. Caligari
Original movie poster for the film Dr. Caligari.jpg
Theatrical release poster.
Directed by Stephen Sayadian
Produced by Joseph F. Robertson
Written by Stephen Sayadian
Jerry Stahl
Starring Madeleine Reynal
Music by Mitchell Froom
Cinematography Ladi von Jansky
Edited by G. Martin Steiner
Distributed by Manley Films
Release dates
  • 1989 (1989)
Running time
80 min
Country United States
Language English

Dr. Caligari is a 1989 cult film by Stephen Sayadian starring Madeleine Reynal, Laura Albert, Gene Zerna, David Parry and Jennifer Balgobin. It is a semi-sequel to the movie The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The film details a disturbed doctor (the granddaughter of the original Dr. Caligari) and her illegal experiments on her patients.

Originally, and briefly, billed as Dr. Caligari 3000 when it debuted at select theaters in 1989, the film promptly faded into obscurity. When it was released on VHS and limited Betamax format, the title has since been Dr. Caligari. The film is considered a cult classic and has been shown as a "Midnight Movie" at various times.


The main plot involves Dr. Caligari's experiments with her patients at the C.I.A (Caligari Insane Asylum) where she transfers glandular brain fluids from one patient to another. Two of her main patients, Mr. Pratt, a cannibalistic serial killer, and Mrs. Van Houten, a nymphomanical housewife, are the primary subjects of her mindswapping. Mrs. Van Houten becomes the cannibal and Mr. Pratt the nymphomaniac; although, they seem to still retain some elements of themselves as well. Apparently Caligari's unconventional idea is to cure people by introducing equally opposite traits to balance out disturbed minds, but this is never explicitly stated in the film. Several other doctors, a married couple Mr & Mrs Lodger, become concerned with Caligari's experiments and approach Mrs. Lodgers father Dr. Avol who confronts Caligari only to fall victim to her mindswapping and receives an injection of Mrs. Van Houtens fluid turning him into a transvestite nymphomaniac. Sex is a very prominent theme throughout the movie, especially for Mrs. Van Houten who appears topless and performs masturbation at several points, but there are no hard core graphic scenes as this was released as an R rated feature. By the end of the film Mrs. Van Houten has injected Dr. Caligari with her own nymphomanical fluid and herself with Caligari's ancestor's (the original Dr. Caligari from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) thus the patient becomes the doctor, the doctor becomes the patient and the inmates are left running the asylum.


The movie was filmed entirely inside large studios in a bizarre landscape combination of merged artificial outdoor and indoor scenes. Windows and doors hang in mid-air against all black backgrounds, and vegetation grows inside rooms. Much of this is done to give the audience an insight into the disturbed minds of both Dr. Caligari (Madeleine Reynall) and her patients. The overdramatic, stylistic acting is amusing and pokes fun at cliches and stereotypes and the film plays out as an artistic performance piece with an outrageous approach rather than a standard film.

Critical reaction[edit]

The film received excellent reviews in the mainstream press (LA Times, Entertainment Weekly, NY Post, Seattle Times, etc.) and was selected as an opening night feature at the Toronto Film Festival. Many fans of the film have cited both a strong David Lynch "feel" to the film as well as a touch of David Cronenberg's Videodrome. The scene where Mrs. Van Houten speaks to a glamorous image of herself on the T.V. clearly reminds one of Debbie Harry as Nicki in Videodrome licking her lips and enticing James Woods. Many of the special effects, such as the fleshy wall with open sores and a giant tongue, leave one feeling uneasy much in the way some people react to scenes in Lynch's films. Overall, the look of the film is an unmistakable product of the 1980s and represents a good juncture point to where film was heading at the end of the 1980s.

Home Entertainment Releases[edit]

The film was also released in America on Laserdisc by Image Home Entertainment. The film was later released on VHS. Excalibur Films, despite mostly dealing with pornographic film, released it on DVD on August 23, 2002.[1] as the company was formed by the film's executive producer.


  1. ^ "Dr Caligari Adult DVD". Excaliburfilms.com. Retrieved 2013-10-20. 

External links[edit]