I was first exposed to Sayadian's work when I was handed Nth-generation videocasettes of "Cafe Flesh" and "Dr. Caligari" and told "watch these--they're weird; I think you'll dig them." Dig them I did indeed, and I wound up crafting a short article on the fucked-up philosophy and eye-assaulting visuals of the films published in Issue 4 of Ultra Violent Magazine. While "Cafe Flesh" has received the DVD treatment (it's bare-bones but still to be lauded, considering the disposable nature our culture assigns to other XXX flicks), "Dr. Caligari" languishes in limbo, begging to be rediscovered.
To say Sayadian's "Dr. Caligari" is a reimagining of the German Expressionist milestone is accurate, even if that catchword makes my brain itch in a distinctly unpleasant fashion. The 1989 movie dispenses with the dreamlike fairground and city of the original and expands the madhouse sequence to encompass the entirety of its eighty brainfuckling minutes. The focus is on sex here, and anyone who's seen one of Sayadian's pseudonymous "Rinse Dream" porn flicks ("Cafe Flesh" or "Party Doll a Go-Go!" to name the most famous) knows that it's not hanging-from-the-chandeliers glee-sex or the kind of slick kink one might expect from a similarly-themed Eurotrash film. No indeedy--this is sneering, body-horror sex that casts human erotic impulses as contemptible and weak.
Dark? You betcha. But this is black comedy we're dealing with here, and the manner in which Sayadian splatters the screen with madness elicits the same kind of laughter as that classic of altered-state art-sk00l viewing that is Richard Elfman's "Forbidden Zone." Much like Elfman, Sayadian directs his actors to deliver their utterly ridiculous dialogue in a deliberately affected style of speech that just begs to be imitated. Lines like "I've got an EKG you can dance to" and exchanges such as "Describe your life in three words;" "Un. Ending. Torment;" are among the most obscenely quotable in weird cinema history. I'd wager that no other film has successfully milked comedy out of a character inspired by heinous child-murderer and cannibal Albert Fish, and for that accomplishment alone, "Dr. Caligari" earns a prominent place in the trash cinema pantheon.
Check out the trailer for this film to get a little bit of the flavor of "Dr. Caligari":
And here's a short clip to further whetten your appetite for the bizarre:
For yet more of the madness of this film, check out the House of Self-Indulgence review of "Dr. Caligari" right here--I *heart* Yum-Yum, who will be crowned Official Stephen Sayadian Expert when the Tenebrous Empire comes to power. SO MOTE IT BE.
NOTA BENE: I am aware of the fact that Excalibur Films offers a DVD-R of this film in a blank envelope. Making a movie available =/= releasing it on DVD in My Imperial Opinion, so I'm classing this as MIA on DVD. A proper R1 commercial release would warm the very cockles of my black little heart.