Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (1933)

The evil crime genius Dr. Mabuse has been locked up in an asylum for years. And yet, there are rumours that his band of criminals is again operative, and they commit crimes that seem strangely similar to Mabuse’s old modus operandi. In Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (The Testament of Dr. Mabuse), Fritz Lang’s master criminal from the previous film Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (1922) is set against Inspector Lohmann, previously seen in yet another Lang classic, M – eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (1931). And we, the audience, are in for a treat.

Karl Meixner and Otto Wernicke in Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse / The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)

Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse was the last of Fritz Lang’s long line of classic masterworks. Lang had directed films since the late 1910s, and starting with his first Mabuse film, Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (1922), every film he made for the next decade was destined to become one of the great classics of cinema and extremely influential upon future film makers.

After 1933, Lang continued to make competent films, such as Scarlet Street (1945), but none were as groundbreaking or brilliant as his earlier works. Two things happened after completing Testament that may have caused Lang’s filmmaking to take a new direction. First he separated from his wife, Thea von Harbou. She had cooperated with him throughout his greatest period, mainly doing the writing of the films. I do not know enough to say how the separation may have effected Lang, but just by looking at all the great films they made together, I think it is safe to say that her impact upon his films must have been considerable.

The second event was that Lang wisely decided to leave Germany to avoid the Nazis. Hitler came to power earlier the same year that Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse premiered, and there are apparently many small critical references to the Nazis woven into the dialogue of the film (though I will happily admit that, not knowing I aught to look for them, I missed them all when I saw the film).

This film is best enjoyed if you are prepared for Lang’s somewhat different visual and narrative style. Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse is in many ways closer to the 1920s than contemporary films from other parts of the world, and if you are used to film from the 1940s on, you may actually feel more comfortable watching one of Lang’s Hollywood productions.

Otto Wernicke in Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse / The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)

Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse
Download link
Year: 1933
Language: German (English subtitles)
Running time: 2 h 1 min
Director: Fritz Lang
Stars: Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Otto Wernicke
Image quality: Excellent
Resolution: High (848×738)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: MPEG4 (1.4 G)

Advertisements

Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse (1960)

When the Nazis wanted director Fritz Lang at the head of German film production in 1932, and simultaneously warning him that some of his latest social commentary was not to their liking, he quickly decided to leave the country.

With classics like Metropolis (1927) and two Dr. Mabuse films (Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler parts one and two (1922) are at the Internet Archive, although of uneven technical quality), Lang had revolutionized the visual style of German cinema, creating for himself not only a name as one of the leading German Expressionists, but also a place in cinematic history. After leaving Germany, however, he spent over two decades in Hollywood making films that, while usually well crafted, were unspectacular compared with his earlier masterpieces.

Gert Fröbe and Werner Peters in Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse (1960)

So when I found at the Internet Archive Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse, Lang’s final return to both his successful Dr. Mabuse character and to his home town Berlin, I was naturally filled with anticipation.

In fact, this was not only Lang’s last Mabuse film, but his last film of any kind. Lang was by this time almost 70 years old, utterly disillusioned and nearly blind. Yet his final effort is a good one. Not at all on the same level as his best silents, but at least on par with his best Hollywood productions.

The film is not only interesting because of Fritz Lang’s involvement. Far from it. The actors are good, Gert Fröbe in particular, and the scenography is nice. Camerawork is uneven, but lighting is very good. Most of all, however, the film fascinates because of its Big Brother theme. Most of the film is set in a hotel where spy cameras and one-way mirrors abound.

Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse was a success upon its release and was followed by five more Mabuse films in quick succession. Thus, the film marks not only an end, but also a beginning. Lang, however, was retired and apparently had no hand in any of the sequels. All of them can be found at the Internet Archive, so I may return to the series in the future.

This film is best enjoyed if you are good at German. There are no subtitles available at the Internet Archive, and I have found none elsewhere.

Wolfgang Preiss as the blind medium Peter Cornelius in Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse (1960)

Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse
Download link
Year: 1960
Language: German (no subtitles)
Running time: 1 h 39 min
Directors: Fritz Lang
Stars: Gert Fröbe, Dawn Addams, Wolfgang Preiss
Image quality: Excellent
Resolution: Medium (640×360)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: Cinepack (1.5 G)