Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler

1922 [GERMAN]

Crime / Mystery / Thriller

Plot summary


Uploaded by: FREEMAN
April 24, 2022 at 03:56 PM

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1 hr 55 min
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1.93 GB
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English 2.0
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24 fps
1 hr 55 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Steffi_P 8 / 10

"He's the damnation and the salvation!"

1922 – Germany was in political turmoil and spiralling into a hyperinflation crisis. Meanwhile in cinema the German Expressionist movement was coming of age with the release of FW Murnau's Nosferatu and this, the first in Fritz Lang's series of epics Dr Mabuse, der Spieler. While perhaps not as classically expressionist as Murnau or Robert Wiene, Fritz Lang arguably put his finger on the mood of times better than any other. With Mabuse, his unique style develops to convey a picture of the chaos of the era.

The opening sequences of Dr Mabuse are evidence of screenwriter Thea von Harbou's growing strength as a storyteller and Lang's economy of expression. The first shot – a close-up of Mabuse's hand, holding cards showing his various disguises – presents and defines the title character. A frantic, rapidly cut action scene then hooks the viewer, whilst introducing us to Mabuse's network of minions. After that, we see Mabuse's elaborate scam at the stock market. In one particularly striking image, the crowd of traders panic and jostle, whilst Mabuse stands calmly on a pedestal above them – a perfect metaphor for his position of power amidst social chaos.

At one point in his youth Lang trained as an architect, and this fact is central to his style as a director. There are hints of this in his earliest films, but in Mabuse the architectural touch is fully matured. Throughout, the set design and décor is almost more important than the actors. Whereas other expressionists would evoke mood most frequently through use of light and shadow, Lang does it primarily through use of space. He composes shots in straight lines and geometric patterns, occasionally seeming to form eyes or faces. Often characters are dwarfed by the sheer cavernous size of the rooms they are in. Also look at how many scenes take place on a stage or lecture hall, and how Lang contrasts opposing shots of speaker (or performer) and audience – a metaphor for master and masses. He even has Mabuse sitting at his desk facing the camera, as if to make the real-life viewers his audience – a touch Lang used a fair bit throughout his work.

A frequent complaint about Dr Mabuse is its gargantuan length and I have to admit it does drag in places. Lang's following silent features, although also very long were extremely tight in structure and worked like a classical symphony in the way different parts complemented each other. Dr Mabuse is not quite up to that standard yet. While some of the individual acts are well-balanced little dramas in themselves, as a whole it is a little uneven. Mabuse also suffers from wordy title cards and a lack of convincing action sequences – again, problems that Lang would have solved by the time of Metropolis. It's worth remembering though that on its original release parts one and two were shown on consecutive nights, and it's much easier to digest this way. I wouldn't recommend any first-time viewer try to tackle the whole thing in one sitting.

Holding the whole thing together is a mesmerising performance from Rudolph Klein-Rogge in the title role. While acting in Hollywood was becoming increasingly naturalistic at this time, Germany was a little way behind and performances still tended to be a bit too theatrical and exaggerated. Lang however softens the impact of melodramatic acting by never letting the characters get too realistic in the first place. Cinema was like a comic-book for Lang, in his urban thrillers as much as in his exotic adventures, and this approach saves Dr Mabuse from becoming too strained and ridiculous.

Although it's not as polished as any of his later silents, Dr Mabuse was perhaps Lang's most influential film. The idea of revealing the identity and methods of the villain to the audience was no doubt a forerunner of Hitchcock's mode of building suspense. A young Sergei Eisenstein was given the task of cutting a shortened version of Mabuse for the Russian public, and the way Lang imbues each shot with meaning may have contributed to the concept of intellectual montage. This is not to mention the impact of the Mabuse character on generations of cinematic villains to come. Dr Mabuse, der Spieler is a far from perfect film, and can be tough to watch although it's not as dull as some would claim, and it's certainly a key film in several strands of cinematic development.

Reviewed by mukava991 9 / 10

superior for its time

This film, like many of Fritz Lang's best efforts, mixes pulp fiction, realism, fantasy and social comment, in this case to adapt to the screen Jacques Norbert's serial novel about a diabolical mastermind (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) who can destabilize the national economy by manipulation of the stock market, operate an underground counterfeiting ring manned by blind slaves, hypnotize card players into losing all of their money to him and even engineer a mass hallucination. He changes his identity for every caper via costumes, wigs, prosthetics and fake facial hair. He has in his employ an army of henchmen from slum denizens and cutthroats to a celebrated follies dancer whom he uses as a lure for wealthy victims. And for what? His purpose in life is to "play the game" and undermine his opponent's will. At one point he states that there is no such thing as love, only lust and the will to power (or, as some interpretations go, the will to possess what one desires). When state prosecutor Von Wenk (the sturdy Bernhard Goetzke) launches an investigation into this one-man crime wave his pursuit covers the social spectrum from the dives and gutters of the underworld to the palaces of the nobility.

The film is beautifully designed and photographed and organized into scenes and acts. Each scene is a story unto itself. This structuring helps provide a centering or equilibrium for the viewer amidst the cascade of events and characters.

Among Mabuse's victims: A bored countess (Gertrud Welcker) who frequents the illegal gambling houses to observe the reactions to wins and losses on the faces of the players so that she can vicariously experience passion. She longs for an adventure the likes of which she can never experience at home with her wimpy husband who spends his time tinkering with antique art objects. Little does she know that she is about to be plunged into the adventure of her life.

Another young beauty, this one a prominent cabaret performer (Aud Egede Nissen), has fallen under the spell of Dr. Mabuse, lives in an apartment adjacent to his hotel suite and serves as bait for unsuspecting victims like the wealthy young Edgar Hull (the not-so-young Paul Richter), who is milked of his fortune by Mabuse.

No one can defy Mabuse. He seems to be everywhere and know everything, so that if you dare betray him you are as good as dead. This terror ensures his gang's devotion. The similarities to Hitler (or any totalitarian leader with secret police tentacles reaching far and wide) are obvious and this film has been cited often as a foreshadowing of the Hitler era. Part 2 is even subtitled "a story for our time." The notion of conspiratorial forces operating behind the scenes was on the German mind when this film was made.

There are many startling parallels between MABUSE and the 1920 classic THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, an interesting fact considering the legend that Lang was involved in the conceptual stage of CALIGARI. Both stories feature a spooky doctor with hypnotic powers who spreads evil through the land. In both films the identity of the central evil character changes: Dr. Mabuse assumes many disguises; Dr. Caligari remains himself until he appears as a psychiatrist at the end. The sign on Mabuse's door reads "Psychoanalyse." Caligari's somnambulist predicts a man will die within hours; Mabuse hypnotizes a man into driving himself over the bank of a canal. The villains even visually resemble each other in both films: Mabuse often wears white fright wigs and high hats reminiscent of Werner Krauss's look in Caligari. MABUSE operates on a wider canvas than CALIGARI. Whereas Caligari's only instrument is his somnambulist slave, Mabuse operates an extensive network of henchmen. At the climax of both stories a word ("Caligari"/"Melior") is animatedly superimposed over the screen action to intensify the impact. The whole of CALIGARI is designed expressionistically; expressionistic sets are used minimally and subtly in Mabuse but the subject of expressionism is briefly discussed in one scene wherein Mabuse describes it as "another game" or words to that effect. The expressionism in CALIGARI is all-encompassing; in MABUSE it is under control, part of a larger design. In both films there are scenes in prison cells. In both films a beautiful young woman who has fainted is carried off and then liberated.

In the Kino edition of MABUSE there is one apparent technical glitch: a car chase near the end starts at night and suddenly flips to daylight with no sense of transition. If this was Lang's idea of "day for night" shooting, he overshot the mark hugely.

On display here is Lang's penchant for mixing exotic pulp, unadorned realism, and pure fantasy. In MABUSE it is the doctor's magical hypnotic powers that stretch and finally break credulity, woven as they are into an otherwise naturalistic crime melodrama. This mixture of the fantastical and the ordinary occurs in all of Lang's 1920's work, right through WOMAN IN THE MOON (1929). Only with M (1931) does he begin to abandon fantasy and concentrate on social issues, whereupon he steered clear of pulp and exotica until late in life when he returned to the genre in the late 1950s with his India trilogy. But by that time film audiences had long outgrown the conventions of the 1920's. And so ended Lang's career.

But the sheer scope and expert execution of this film under the conditions that prevailed in Germany in 1921-22, supervised by a man barely 30 years old, is quite an achievement and should be seen.

Reviewed by Boba_Fett1138 9 / 10

The manipulative Dr. Mabuse.

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.

9/10

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