Dr. Cal O’Garry

I thought maybe seeing the 1962 CABINET OF CALIGARI meant I’d seen all the Caligaris — the original, the porno version, and now this, the 1960s reimagining, which despite its title, lacks any sort of significant cabinet. There’s a book case, a fish tank… no cabinet. What a gyp.

It does have a very interesting Dr. C. in the shape of Dan O’Herlihy, who plays the good doctor as Irish as can be, a sort of Dr. Carrigaline, or something. To show his star of to greatest effect, one-off director Robert Kay has devised a lighting approach of such perfection, such sinister aspect, that you’d have to backtrack to the moment when Josef Von Sternberg decided to go high, bright and frontal on Miss Dietrich to find its equal. The way those shadows almost consume the eyeballs, which yet manage to pop out of the dark like glowering beacons! The perfect meeting of face and light.

We also get Glynis Barber Johns (silly mistake! But there are so few Glynises, I get confused easily), appealing and distinctive and able to show real horror in an individual way, and then sadly we get gallons of raw verbiage from writer Robert Bloch, which the actors have to swim laboriously through as if cast adrift in a sea of marmite.

In plot terms, it’s a long and tedious crawl to get to the clunking twist ending, and until that comes it feels like nothing whatever can happen. A bath sequence crudely rehashes the success of PSYCHO’s shower, to approximately 0.000001% of the effect, and Kay stages things effectively whenever anything comes along TO stage, and then the climax arrives and we suddenly realise how pointless all this ennui was: rather than being constrained by his narrative so that he couldn’t have an eventful and action-packed story, Bloch had chosen a story that could have comfortably embraced ANYTHING — the plot could have been filled with irrational horrors, weirdness and perversion until the censor had conniptions — why, then, is it so wretchedly wordy and uneventful?

A great wasted opportunity, as Robert Kay pulls of some inventive and cunning direction, and that sequence quoted above is a humdinger of latter-day expressionism. This pull-back through a spyhole is a striking device, mirroring nicely the film’s very first shot, a track out of a dark tunnel. The movie is all dressed up with no place to go, but the dressings are admirable in their own right.

16 Responses to “Dr. Cal O’Garry”

  1. “Glynis Barber”? Well call me Tony Forward! I remember when this opened in New York with great fanfare — and died the death both critically and commercially. Love Glynis and the revolving door. Remindinful of the “That’s the Rhythm of The Day” number from Dancing Lady.

  2. I’m thinking this should be on a double bill with Joseph Losey’s M.

  3. Really? Why? Losey’s M is a little masterpiece.

  4. Oops. Glynis Johns, of course, charming star of Miranda, The Court Jester, etc.

    I already paired Losey’s M with the porno Mabuse, which was degrading enough! But yes, they are both remakes of German classics. The Losey has a lot more on the ball. If this version had more scenes like the one in the excerpt, it might stand comparison better.

  5. Thinking about the musical comparison with Dancing Lady — post-Caligari, that kind of expressionism is really associated more with musical and UIP cartoons than with horror.

  6. David E., just an off-the-top-of-my-head comment having to do with the thought that both film are remakes of German classics. Having seen neither film I can’t judge, although I’ve always wanted to see Losey’s M, one, because it’s Losey, and two, because it’s noir, or at least considered to be such.

  7. Best thing about Losey’s film may be his stunning use of the famous Bradbury Building. It’s a terrific LA movie from a locations vantage.

  8. Actually there are more things that that. Losey’s M was shot in the “Bunker Hill” area of Los Angeles. It begins inside the fabled “Angel’s Flight” furnicular railway (that takes passengers up a small hill, much like the one in Montmatre featured in Celine and Julie Go Boating) There has been a lot of writing and scholarship about Bunker Hill of late, much of it related to The Exiles a very late neo-relaist film about native Ameircans living in Bunker Hill directed by Kent MacKenzie — an Englisman — back in 1961. Bunker Hill and “Angel’s Flight” are also featured in Aldrich’s beyond great Kiss Me Deadly (1955) — which among othert things includes the motion picture debut of the now-ever-so-much in the news, Cloris Leachman.

    Losey’s M,/i> has an amazing sequence inside a now-long-gone Bunker Hill apartment building — a towering structure with a dizzying stairwell shown off to great effect when a distraught mother — played by Karen Morley of Scarface fame — cries out for her daughter who we know (but she doesn’t) has been snatched away y David Wayne’s child killer.His devestatingly creepy erforance has none of the sympathetic undertones Peter Lorre brought to Lang’s film. Martin Gable, Luther Adler, Raymond Burr, and my new best friend Norman Lloyd also figure in the cast. It’s my favorite downtown L.A. movie, next to Blade Runner.

  9. Martin Gabel is superb, and his lone film as director, The Lost Moment, is a terrific piece.

    Oh, and you forgot Glenn Anders! It’s a terrific rogue’s gallery.

    Just saw Los Angeles Plays Itself, which was terrific — a shame M is so rare, it would definitely have fitted right in.

  10. Very curious to hear about Norman Lloyd!

  11. May I say that it’s a God damn shame there isn’t a decent copy available to be seen of Losey’s M. Kiss Me Deadly is indeed great, they called her Chlorine Bleachman in high school, although no one really knew who she was until The Last Picture Show.

  12. Cloris is a legend. Kiss Me Deadly is full off memorable actresses, come to think of it.

  13. Norman Lloyd is 94, but to talk to him you’d swear you were speaking to a 50 year-old. He was a frequent directo of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and was its “show-runner.” He’s still in demand as an actor, most recentyl a teriffic turn in Curtis Hansoin’s In Her Shoes — the last half of which he steals clean away from its star Cameron Diaz.

    And he still plays tennis.

  14. Wow. He’s always a welcome presence as an actor or as an interviewee in the many Hitchcock docs I’ve seen him in. An invaluable witness to history!

  15. Simon Fraser Says:

    Cloris Leachman gave one of the most memorably awful performances I’ve ever seen as Queen Hippolyte in the Wonder Woman TV show Pilot.
    I’m sure she had rent to pay of kids to feed so I don’t hold it against her.

    You reckon that there is any mileage in a ‘Worst Performance by Oscar Winning Actor’ list?
    Or am I just being mean spirited here.

  16. The Oscar list that always entertains is the worst actual Oscar-winning performances. And films. But most of them are just a bit boring.

    I may studiously ignore them here when they come round again. I’ve ignored the election here, although I’ve been following it with pleasure. But I am actually going to refer to it soon…

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