The Blackstone Audiobooks presentation of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a recording of an audio drama produced in 1998 by The Hollywood Theatre of the Ear. The presentation has a runtime of one hour and nine minutes and is an audio dramatization of the classic silent film, made in Germany in 1920, written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer.
The script for the audio presentation was written, produced and directed by the award-winning writer and producer Yuri Rasovsky and the cast includes John de Lancie, Jane Carr, Robertson Dean, Kaitlin Hopkins, Tony Jay, James Otis and Lorna Raver. They all do a fine job of bringing the tale to life and the dramatization won the Independent Publishers Award in 1998 for best direct-to-audio production.
All in all the script remains pretty true to that of the original silent film, but the audio drama has the benefit of allowing an amusing repartee between the central characters that is rather enjoyable to listen to and nowhere is this more noticeable than in the scene where Franz, Carl and Anna go to the fair together. Franz, who is recovering from a breakdown, is not perhaps the life and soul of the party, but overall the three friends are in good spirits.
It would probably have been better for all concerned, however, if they had walked past Dr Caligari’s tent instead of going inside, because what occurs on the other side of the canvas initially destroys their good spirits and later their lives.
Once inside the tent the ever sceptical Carl accepts the doctors invitation to join him on the stage and when he does he taunts Caligari and pokes fun at his friend, the mysterious Cesare the Somnambulist, who is, according to Caligari, neither asleep nor awake; neither alive nor dead, and dwells on a high peak in the twilight world at the pole of reality. Cesare is, the doctor insists, everywhere and nowhere simultaneously, and because of this he knows all and can predict the future. The future that Cesare predicts for Carl is a short one and he informs the young man that he will be dead before the morning. Carl, of course, remains jocular about the whole thing, his friends, though, are not so amused by Cesare’s words and no one is laughing when Carl is found decapitated the following morning.
With its mixture of wit and terror The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari audiobook is a good addition to any audiobook library. I must admit though, that I found the police sergeant, heading the investigation into Carl’s death, a little annoying, but I also found him rather amusing at times as well and was never really sure what to make of him; he was a little like an advert for inadequate policing. Cesare, on the other hand oozed creepiness every time he spoke, but the real villain of this piece is Doctor Caligari. He is the one pulling Cesare’s strings and tying everyone else up in knots as he uses his dark powers to destroy anyone who gets in his way.