DVD
The Testament Of Dr Mabuse

Starring: Rudolph Klein-Rogge, Otto Wernicke and Gustav Diessl
Eureka Video
RRP: 22.99
EKA40071
Certificate: 12
Available now


Dr Mabuse, the Gambler was a two-part silent movie made by Fritz Lang in 1922. Mabuse was a crime lord who caused a wave of terror, death and destruction through his hypnotic prowess and evil genius, before eventually falling into madness after seeing the ghosts of his murder victims and being incarcerated in an insane asylum. In this talkie sequel made ten years later Dr Mabuse has made no outward progress in the asylum, simply staring into space. Now his hand begins to jerk violently in writing motions, and given a pen and paper he proceeds to scribble nonsense. However his penmanship becomes gradually more coherent until it's realised that Mabuse's 30 pages a day are intelligent instructions on how to run a successful reign of crime through fear and confusion. When the described crimes begin to be carried out for real, Inspector Lohmann (last seen on the trail of Peter Lorre's child murderer in Lang's M) takes up the case...

Originally premiered in 1933 in Budapest, The Testament of Dr Mabuse had been banned in Germany and wasn't shown again until 1951 in a shortened version. It was around this time that Adolf Hitler became Chancellor and Goebbels Minister for Enlightenment and Propaganda (!). It was said that Hitler was a great fan of Fritz Lang's work. Ironically, not only was Lang Austrian, but he was also Jewish. Goebbels apparently approached Lang, telling him he was aware of the man's "shortcomings" but thought him such an accomplished film maker that he wanted Lang to head the new Film Institute. Lang foresaw the inevitable and fled the country. Afterward, the film was banned by the Nazis because it "posed a threat to law and order and public safety", and the original film was seized.

This film is considerably more enjoyable than you might think. The ghosts which appear to Mabuse are very well done considering the year, and there is good use of lighting, particularly in the finale car chase where the approaching trees and the roadway ahead appear somewhat sinister. For a 105 minute film there is constant movement and progression, with a lot going on. There is the police mystery of who is running Mabuse's crime organisation, although the viewer already knows; sympathy for the character Kent who has unwittingly become embroiled in the events of the spree, dragging in his innocent girlfriend; there are arson attacks, robberies, shootings, and the clever idea of flooding a locked room to subdue the force of a bomb about to explode.

Like M, The Testament of Dr Mabuse has been lovingly restored, the picture and sound digitally remastered. The documentary included as an extra is interesting, but the subtitles are often difficult to keep up with, especially when there is a crowd scene or characters are arguing, their speech accelerated.

This film will appeal to collectors of old masters, but I wonder how much casual interest it will garner.

Ty Power

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£17.24 (Amazon.co.uk)
   
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