The film was not shown to the German public until August 24, 1951, when it was presented in an edited 111-minute version. See more »
Hofmeister supposedly scratches Mabuse's name in a window pane of his apartment with a ring, but Hofmeister is not wearing any rings when Division 2-B enter his apartment. See more »
"Magic Fire Music," old man.
You know that one, Müller? That's from "Die Walküre". Those are the girls who carry dead police inspectors directly up to heaven from the Alexanderplatz with a "Hey ho." On horseback.
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The second version released in the United States was taken from the original German version, dubbed into English, cut to 75 minutes, and released as "The Crimes of Dr. Mabuse. See more »
Of all storytelling mediums, the one that perhaps has most in common with cinema is the comic book. Both tell stories primarily through pictures, both have a similar concept of the frame, and both become clumsy and uninteresting if they rely too much on words. But few films immersed themselves so completely in a comic book-style world as the German pictures of Fritz Lang.
What is especially comic-bookish about a picture like Testament of Dr Mabuse is not just its fast-paced adventure plot, but its timeless, placeless exaggeration of reality. Just like Batman's Gotham City, there are few if any references to real locations or people, and every character and organisation is a surreal caricature of a real-world counterpart. That's why Tim Burton's is the best Batman, because it properly recreates that over-the-top version of reality. This approach is also what makes pictures like this so compelling and accessible.
It's because of this approach that I feel this is a (slightly) superior picture to M. M was really the only one of Lang's German pictures that, plot-wise at least, seemed grounded in reality, and yet it is still populated those crazy character types. However , in the comic-book world of Dr Mabuse these figures fit right in. Otto Wernicke reprises his role as Inspector Karl "Fatty" Lohmann (hurrah!), and the character seems much more at home here.
This picture is not quite so tightly constructed as M, but Lang instead throws everything into creating a sense of unease. As with the first Dr Mabuse film (Der Spieler, shot by Lang in 1922), audience participation is crucial. Lang several times has Dr Baum speak his lines straight into the camera, making the character audience and the real-world audience share the same angle. In locations such as the "curtain room" he shows us all sides, so that we too feel trapped between those four walls. Since his silent days he has added a new string to his bow, in that he now uses the occasional camera movement to physically pull the audience into the film's world. Also consider the final moment in relation to this pattern of camera-as-audience shots.
The Testament of Dr Mabuse is a captivating, horror-tinged thriller, and the last great picture to be produced in Germany before things went tits up, politically. It seems to represent everything that made Weimar cinema perfect for Lang, and everything that made him a misfit in Hollywood – its surreal theatricality, its dominance of set-design over actors, its blending of genres. Like the comic book writer, Lang dealt in myths (both in and out of his films - the story of his meeting with Goebbels, for example, is almost certainly a fabrication). The Testament of Dr Mabuse is one of his greatest.
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