DR MABUSE, THE GAMBLER
(Dr Mabuse, Der Spieler)
Director Fritz Lang had a great fascination with masses being controlled by Machiavellian minds as in many of his American sound thrillers or with images like the robot Maria turned rabble-rouser in Metropolis (1927). In Dr Mabuse, Fritz Lang taps into the decadence of post-War Europe with great accuracy the Folies Bergere, the flourishing gambling clubs, the free-wheeling continental set, the world of international finance (a scene, cut from this version of the film, in which Mabuse manipulates a stock-market crash is amazingly prophetic of the German inflation crisis only a couple of years later), the Cubist movement, the flourishing of spiritualism. Some of Langs images of the bored rich are striking. One of the gambling dens advertises itself with the statement: Hilarious enjoyment without restrictions. Our motto is Whatever Gives Pleasure is Permissible. The Countess is wont to stating title cards like: We need adventure to make life worthwhile and [of watching people gamble]: I find thrills and sensations which help to make existence less dull. In this milieu, Dr Mabuse is seen as the ultimate decadent Nothing is interesting in the long run except one thing. Playing with human beings and human fates, he states at one point, and at another: There is no such thing as love. There is only desire and the will to possess what you desire.
As Dr Mabuse, Rudolf Klein-Rogge (who was also Rotwang in Fritz Langs Metropolis) physically dominates the film with a ruthlessly brutal performance, strutting about with a glower of pure malevolence. Lang engages in some wonderful cinematic effects to demonstrate Mabuses mental powers at work like a shot that looks up over a players cards to show Mabuses eyes glowing, which then closes in as everything else goes black until we see nothing except the eyes in the dark. Despite Rudolf Klein-Rogge dominating the film, Lang does a fine job in the creation of his adversary Wenk, which Bernard Goetzke (Death in Langs Destiny ) plays with a steely brilliance.
The sets created as background for the film are superb. A hotel foyer is dominated by a giant chandelier and beneath it a large circular carpet the walls of the rest of the room fade into the distance so that there is a single set that almost entirely consists only of the chandelier and carpet with people seen as distant figures circling around it. The most fabulous set is the nightclub where the centrepiece is a large circular table with slides (presumably for the patrons to send their bets down) and a giant electrically-lit star-shaped chandelier that descends and opens its wings out to reveal a nude dancer.
The film seen here, Dr Mabuse, The Gambler, is but a pale shadow of the original film that Fritz Lang created. The original German version, which is still in existence today, hails in at four hours in length; this video version is under 90 minutes in length. Unfortunately, this is the English-language print that was released in the USA in 1924. It is not a particularly good translation as witness the director being called Fritz Lange. This video version seems to be cut too some sources list the English-language print as 90 minutes however, the video box lists both 82 and 86 minutes. This is certainly an indifferently conducted release the video cover describes the scene where Mabuse manipulates the stockmarket but such a scene does not appear in this version of the film. The characters, with the exception of Mabuse, have all been renamed in the German version, the character of Richard is the Countesss husband, while in this version he becomes her brother. What must be said in its favour though is that the story holds together surprisingly coherently. A fully restored version of the film was released by the Goethe Institute in 2004, which now runs at 297 minutes, nearly five hours in length.
The other Dr Mabuse film are: The Testament of Dr Mabuse (1933), The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960), The Return of Dr Mabuse/The FBI Versus Dr Mabuse (1961), The Testament of Dr Mabuse (1962), The Invisible Dr Mabuse/The Invisible Horror (1962), Dr Mabuse vs Scotland Yard (1964), The Death Ray of Dr Mabuse/The Secret of Dr Mabuse (1964). The first two of these sequels were directed by Fritz Lang. Dr Mabuse was modernised by Claude Chabrol as Dr M/Club Extinction (1990).
Fritz Langs other films of genre interest are: Destiny (1921) wherein Death incarnates two lovers throughout various historical periods; the two-part Niebelungen saga, Siegfried (1924) and Kriemhilds Revenge (1924), based on the Teutonic myths; Metropolis (1927); Woman in the Moon (1929), a realist attempt to portray a Moon landing; M (1931), a thriller concerning the hunt for a child killer; The Testament of Dr Mabuse (1933); the afterlife fantasy Liliom (1933); the film noir psycho-thriller Secret Beyond the Door (1948); and a further Dr Mabuse sequel The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960).
Entire film available online. Part 1 here:-
Part 2 here:-