A boat has been destroyed, criminals are dead, and the key to this mystery lies with the only survivor and his twisted, convoluted story beginning with five career crooks in a seemingly random police lineup.
Reporter Peter Barter gets murdered while driving to his tv station. Commisioner Kras gets a phone call from clairvoyant Cornelius who saw Barters death in a vision. But a dark force ... See full summary »
Peter van Eyck,
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 »
Dr. Mabuse begins his reign of cinematic crime in this innovative and highly influential silent movie, which retains much of its power for patient viewers.
Dr. Mabuse is a name familiar to almost everyone in Germany, but most Americans would have to be told that he's a criminal mastermind, psychiatrist, gambler and hypnotist with supernatural powers. Mabuse is notable for his brilliant disguises and his gang of minions who conspire against people and institutions for the sole purpose of bringing power and wealth to himself. This evil genius is known only as The Great Unknown to those who wish to stop him. Mabuse was created by Norbert Jacques for a novel which has never been out of print in Germany. The director of this film, Fritz Lang, claimed him for his own; and now Mabuse is known not as a character in a novel but as a character in three Fritz Lang films, the first of which is this innovative and hugely influential silent movie.
Lang's storytelling techniques are especially innovative, but later spy films, including Lang's own, have greatly improved on what's here and leave modern viewers alert to the slow pace, murky details and confusing plot twists. What hasn't been improved upon is the artistry behind the photographic effects. I don't mean the effects themselves: modern special effects are infinitely more sophisticated. This film's effects have a great impact evenor especiallyon today's viewer who is accustomed to a rapid-fire series of elaborate, gaudy computer-generated pictures, like those in, say, Peter Jackson's "King Kong." Nothing in that film is as memorable to me as this movie's scene where the camera closes in on Mabuse and everything around him goes dark, leaving only one glowing, malevolent head floating in the blackness.
The highly exaggerated style of acting from everyone in the cast would look idiotic if seen in isolated bits. Von Welk (Bernhard Goetzke), tilting back his head and crossing his eyes as Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) hypnotizes him, would have been a perfect clip for Jay Ward's "Fractured Flickers." As part of this film, every melodramatic moment from the cast is effective in a way that a more naturalistic style can never be.
Fans of the Mabuse films, which number many more than just Lang's three, are sometimes disappointed by this first incarnation. This Mabuse allows himself violent emotional outbursts, while the later version is marked by icy self-control. The more familiar Mabuse may be an improvement over this one, but they don't quite replace him, and those films don't quite replace this one. This is a treasure for film historians, and indirectly a treasure for fans of the countless movies influenced by it.
For those who simply want a good movie, there's plenty here to reward them, provided they are very, very patient.
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