Toronto International Film Festival 1989
Stephen Sayadian, Jerry Stahl
Laura Albert, Jennifier Balgobin, John Durbin, Fox Harris, Madeline Reynal
Joseph Robertson, Gerald Steiner
Ladi Von Jansky
In 1989, Stephen Sayadian, aka Rinse Dream, released one of the most iconic and fantastical works in American exploitation cinema. For the first time since its release, thanks to a new restoration, it will finally find its audience, and retroactively be appreciated as the underground masterpiece that it is. Bizarre, stunning, goofy and unsettling, DR. CALIGARI embraces the avant-garde in its exquisite and hilarious exploitation of America’s repressed libido. As the film’s title might suggest, the film is a loose remake of the German Expressionist classic, following Mrs. Van Houten, a woman who seems to be losing touch with reality, and her treatment under Dr. Caligari, who diagnoses her with a “disease of the libido”. Far more than just narratively similar, Sayadian's background in set design and art keeps with the silent classic's highly stylized design, updated with the bright, disorienting commercialism of 1980s Americana. DR. CALIGARI might be one of the American cinema's most incisive and unique portraits of national excess ever to grace the screen.
Above all else, though, the film has a biting and over-the-top sense of humour. The dialogue is ripe with delicious one-liners (“My feelings are like filthy prayers I want to scream into your face”) and incredible visual gags. In just the first few minutes of the film, we get the first visual joke as SMPTE colour bars slowly peel away to reveal a naked woman lounging on a couch. Aware that some omniscient force is exposing her nudism, she tries to hide behind the disappearing bars. In rare exploitation form, DR. CALIGARI maintains its wild and intoxicating energy throughout, pulling the audience deep into its erotic nightmare world, in an experience not soon to be forgotten. – Justine Smith
Dr. Caligari presented by Mondo Macabro
Restoration by Acid Pictures
Restoration supervisor: Wojtek Janio
Colorist: Gosia Grzyb
Restoration producer: Daniel Bird
The original camera negative was scanned using a Lasergraphics Director 4K and was graded in consultation with director Stephen Sayadian.
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