The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

3 mins read

Five years ago I bought an antique copy of ‘Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari’ (The Cabinet of Dr Caligari) on Ebay. The 1919 German film is studied by film student throughout the world, seen as the birth of German Expressionism. The film has been a source of inspiration for directors over the years with the most obvious being Tim Burton.

The pack arrived and for some reason I only managed to get around to opening it this week when it was rediscovered the dull metal tin in an old box.

I am not sure why I actually opened the film tin but to my surprise as well as the actual film the tin contained a number of old documents and receipts that went alongside the release.

It turns out the original owner of the ‘can’ was quite a Caligari fan. The tin contained an original receipt for the rental of the film from the British Film Institute dated 26/1/1960, at first I panicked assuming I had bought a rental that hadn’t been returned to the BFI for fifty years but fortunately I then found the receipt for this reel.

It turns out the owner was such a big fan of Caligaria  that in 1963 he contacted “Entertainment Films Company” in New York and bought his own copy of the film for $34.95 plus $1.50 to cover the postage to the UK.

In addition to the receipt there are seven Polaroid photos from the film and a series of information sheets, newspaper cutouts and class handouts. Ironically I have been teaching German Expressionism for five years and the Caligari resources lost in this tin are quite superior to those I was using each year.

Some of the newspaper articles are dated 1967 and there is even a photocopy of the RadioTime listing for the film for 10.55pm on BBC 2 although sadly no airing date is attached.

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.

My favourite resources have to be a typed document with photos glued on and a photocopy of the November issue of Flickers Magazine. Many of the photocopied documents are written by Gerald McKee who in 1960 became a member of the VFC and subsequently became the editor of Flickers in 1979.

Gerald enthusiastically continued to edit the publication, until his death in June 2007. Flickers still exists today in a slightly different format (web link).

I think the only negative with the pack is the small sticker on the back of the metal tin that says “2 Reels” which means I only have half the film but I still consider it a golden find. If there are any fans out there who would love this pack please get in touch.


The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (IMDB).
British Film Institute
Flickers Magazine


David is a documentary and landscape photographer covering everything from dramatic long exposure landscape photography through to live music. David is a former Official Fujifilm X Photographer.

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