DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
DR. MABUSE: THE GAMBLER (DR. Mabuse, der Spieler - Ein Bild der Zeit) (director/writer: Fritz Lang; screenwriters: Thea von Harbou/based on the novel by Norbert Jacques; cinematographer: Carl Hoffmann; cast: Rudolf Klein-Rogge (Dr Mabuse), Bernhard Goetzke (Police Commissioner von Wenk), Aud Egede Nissen (Cara Carozza, exotic nightclub dancer), Paul Richter (Eddie Hull, idle rich man), Gertrud Welcker (Countess Told), Alfred Abel (Richard Fleury), Georg John (Pesch), Hans Adalbert von Schlettow (Georg, the Chauffeur), Grete Berger (Fine, a servant); Runtime: 270; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Erich Pommer; Kino; 1922-silent-Germany-in German with English subtitles)

 
"Though disjointed and poorly paced and the plot makes little sense, there are inspirational moments throughout."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Dr. Mabuse is issued in two parts. Director Fritz Lang ("Metropolis"/"Beyond the Door"/"Woman in the Moon") cowrote with his wife Thea von Harbou this uneven silent crime thriller, shot as a Expressionist film, many consider as the first film noir. It's based on the pulp novel by Norbert Jacques. Though disjointed and poorly paced and the plot makes little sense, there are inspirational moments throughout and the sets are first-class. Lang intended 'Mabuse' as a social commentary on the inflationary and decadent times, and to point out that the masses can be easily controlled by Machiavellian minds.

Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), hiding behind the veneer of a respected psychoanalyst, is actually a master criminal and master of disguise and hypnotism. He takes advantage of the chaos in Berlin to commit daring crimes (such as a brazen train robbery, spreading counterfeit currency, card cheating, blackmail, using psychic powers to make his weak-minded rich vics obey his commands, and he kidnaps and imprisons the Countess Told-Gertrud Welcker-in a twisted sense of romance), until he becomes so drunk with power that he becomes insane. His many crimes baffle the earnest police chief, von Wenk (Bernhard Goetzke), who is saddled with not up to speed police methods. Mabuse moves seamlessly between lurid bourgeois gambling dens (where the idle rich look for thrills), the seedy prole establishments (such as the Folies Bergere, where his assistant Cara-Aud Egede Nissen-dances), the decadent continental set, and the world of international finance (Mabuse manipulates a stock-market crash). Though von Wenk recognizes that there's one mastermind behind the crime wave, he can't see through Mabuse's disguises or overcome his psychic powers of mind control as evil runs rampant across the landscape.

Lang's sequel The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933) is a much better film (the last film Lang made in Germany before fleeing the Nazis), as he corrected all the kinks from this first Mabuse film. He returned to Mabuse again for his final film in 1960, The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse.

REVIEWED ON 2/10/2010     GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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