Just in time for Halloween, we have the psychological horror of two masterpieces to experience in digitally-restored Blu-ray: Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari from Eureka’s Masters of Cinema, and Jack Clayton’s The Innocents from Criterion.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
The destructive madness of World War I directly led to this postwar experiment in Expressionism and allegory scripted by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer. At a local carnival in a small German town, hypnotist Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) presents the somnambulist Cesare (Conrad Veidt), who can purportedly predict the future of curious fairgoers. But at night, the doctor wakes Cesare from his sleep to enact his evil bidding… Roger Ebert proclaimed this to be “the first true horror film.” Subversive in its aesthetics and political denunciation of authority, Caligari used stylized sets, with jagged buildings painted on canvas backdrops and flats, while the actors moved in a ”jerky” and dance-like manner to enhance the weirdness. The Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation in Wiesbaden gathered all available film sources for the first time (including the almost entirely preserved camera negative from the German Federal Film Archive), and the 4K digital restoration was performed by Film Restoration & Conservation (which you can view in the restoration doc).
The Innocents (1961)
Clayton’s inspired take on Henry James’ psychosexually charged The Turn of the Screw (co-written by Truman Capote) remains one of the best ghost stories every made on screen with a sinister and elegant ambiguity, exquisitely shot by Freddie Francis in black and white and CinemScope “in a cocoon of darkness.” It points to dangerous fanaticism, loss of innocence, and the futility of good intentions. Like Psycho and The Apartment, it also punctures the sense of hope at the start of the ’60s. Deborah Kerr plays an emotionally fragile governess manipulated by the wild imaginations of the two orphaned siblings (Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin) she cares for, leading to horror, madness, and violence. Bonus features include new interview with cinematographer John Bailey about Francis and the look of the film and a new piece on the making of the film with an interview with Francis from 2006.