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Dr Caligari (1989)

Without doubt one of the strangest films of all time, Dr Caligari is akin to an acid trip through the darkest recesses of your brain – but weirder. It’s so strange, it defies description.

Dr Caligari (Madeleine Reynal) – who dresses like a dominatrix Cleopatra and speaks like Marlene Dietrich – is performing psycho-sexual experiments on the mentally ill and sexually maladjusted in the extremely colourful “Caligari’s Insane Asylum” (CIA).

The asylum – whose slogan is “Better Living Thru Chemistry” – is full of bright pinks and neon yellows and looks more like a nightclub-cum-funhouse.

Mrs Van Houten (Laura Albert) suffers from extreme nymphomania and her husband, Les (Gene Zerna), seeks possible treatment at the hands of Dr Caligari.

The “treatment” involves her having vigorous sex with cannibalistic serial killer Gus Pratt (John Durbin) in front of the other patients, while he’s wearing a baby head mask, yellow marigolds and a green jumpsuit.

Mrs VH and Pratt share more than just bodily fluids – they actually share brain fluid as a result of one of the Doctor’s experiments.

Elsewhere, Mrs Van Houten opens a doorway and faces a large pulsing wall of flesh with scars and wounds and orifices that ooze candy and paint.

A mouth with a waggling tongue appears on the wall of meat, growing until it is larger than her head – at which point she writhes against it while the giant tongue licks her face . . .

Dr Lodger (David Parry) and his wife Ramona (Jennifer Balgobin) become concerned with Caligari’s experiments and turn to Ramona’s father and Caligari’s partner, Dr Avol (Fox Harris) for help. Avol confronts Caligari but receives an injection of Mrs Van Houten’s brain fluid, which turns him into a transvestite nymphomaniac.

Ultimately, Mrs VH injects Dr Caligari with her own nymphomaniacal brain fluid and herself with that of Caligari’s ancestor – the original Dr Caligari from The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) – and so the doctor becomes the patient and Mrs VH and the inmates are left to run the asylum.

All of this takes place in Dayglo costumes amidst inky black sets with slanted doorways and odd geometric backgrounds – all with a smattering of German Expressionism thrown in for good measure.

If none of this makes any sense, just be aware that it doesn’t make any more sense if you watch it!


Dr Caligari
Madeleine Reynal
Dr Avol
Fox Harris
Mrs Van Houten
Laura Albert
Ramona Lodger
Jennifer Balgobin
Gus Pratt
John Durbin
Les Van Houten
Gene Zerna
Dr Lodger
David Parry
Barry Phillips
Patient in Straitjacket
Magie Song
Miss Koonce
Jennifer Miro
Stephen Quadros
Screaming Patient
Carol Albright
Patient with Extra Hormones
Catherine Case
Grace Butler
Debra De Liso
Human Lamp
Vera Butler
Spanish Patient/Baby Man
Salvador Espinoza
Shoe Salesman
Joseph Baratelli
Shoe Customer
April Hartz
Patient in Doorway
Anthony Robertson
Door Tongue
Tequila Mockingbird
Other patients
Lori Chacko
Marjean Holden

Stephen Sayadian