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Dr. Mabuse and his organization of criminals are in the process of completing their latest scheme, a theft of information that will allow Mabuse to make huge profits on the stock exchange. Afterwards, Mabuse disguises himself and attends the Folies Bergères show, where Cara Carozza, the main attraction of the show, passes him information on Mabuse's next intended victim, the young millionaire Edgar Hull. Mabuse then uses psychic manipulation to lure Hull into a card game where he loses heavily. When Police Commissioner von Wenk begins an investigation of this mysterious crime spree, he has little to go on, and he needs to find someone who can help him. Written by
Fritz Lang originally wanted the actress portraying Venus to be completely nude. When the first take was completed, he didn't like how the woman's pubic hair looked, and ordered her to shave it off. The actress indignantly refused, sending Lang into a tantrum. Eventually, a compromise was reached when a small strip of cloth was draped over the offending hair. This scene was predictably removed from the revival versions that circulated throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, and has only recently been part of the film in the rare showings of the Fritz Lang archives' complete copy of Dr. Mabuse. See more »
As Mabuse's driver gasses Von Wenk in the taxi cab, there is a brief cutaway showing Mabuse himself in the back seat instead, clearly a recycled shot from the scene before. See more »
This is the movie that features one of fist arch-criminals, Dr. Mabuse. A manipulative character, who by hypnosis manipulates people and set them up against each other and steal their money, by letting him play card games against him, while he lets his opponents deliberately loose, even when they have the better cards. He manipulates for more money and the love from respectable woman but also most definitely purely for his own pleasure. It doesn't need to be explained why Dr. Mabuse is evil, he just simply IS. That is what makes a great and memorable movie villain.
Definitely true that the second halve of the movie is better than the first. In the second halve the movie really starts to take pace and form. Does it make the first part obsolete? I think not. It perfectly shows how manipulative Dr. Mabuse and the characters also get strongly developed in it. But yes, it's definitely true that the movie is a long sit. Almost 4 hours is of course a long time (and there even is a longer version). It does not ever make the movie bad or boring but it does make it a bit tiresome at times. The movie also isn't easy to follow but that often is the curse of early narrative full-length movies from the '10's and '20's of the previous century.
For 60% of the movie, the movie concentrates on card games. Some of the sequence involving the games are made to look more exciting and and tense than in any James Bond movie ever had been the case.
The movie uses some good early cinematic ticks and also some interesting storytelling techniques such as some interesting fast flashbacks, to help to remind to the viewer of what happened earlier in the story.
The movie also shows some early film-noir tendencies and other thriller and mystery elements. Not just with its story, psychological thriller elements or style of film-making but also with its characters. The main villain Dr. Mabuse is of course the best example of this. He plays an early full-blooded big movie villain, who is also being accompanied by a couple of typical crook-like looking henchmen. All elements that later would become defining for the genre. The movie is about good versus evil, in good early cinematic form.
Some of the tricks make sure that the movie is filled with a couple of memorable and effective sequences, mainly regarding the manipulative hypnosis sequences, by Dr. Mabuse. It makes the movie highly imaginative and original, though it all obviously is not as revolutionary as the other Fritz Lang classics; "Metropolis" and "M".
Of course by todays standards the acting in the movie is definitely over-the-top. Fritz Lang never casted actors just because of their acting skills but also because of their powerful looks. It all helps to make the early acting in Lang movies still fascinating and powerful to watch. Bernhard Goetzke as the state attorney von Welk is a great 'main-hero' for the movie. Of course Rudolf Klein-Rogge is also great as Dr. Mabuse and so is Alfred Abel, though I liked him in "Metropolis" even better.
Definitely worth seeing, if you can handle its long running time.
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