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.