Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
Original title: Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse
Germany, 1933. Nero-Film AG. Screenplay by Fritz Lang, Thea von Harbou, based on characters created by Norbert Jacques. Cinematography by Karoly Vass, Fritz Arno Wagner. Produced by Fritz Lang, Seymour Nebenzal. Music by Hans Erdmann. Production Design by Emil Hasler, Karl Vollbrecht. Costume Design by Hans Kothe. Film Editing by Conrad von Molo, Lothar Wolff.
A ring of jewel robbers confound a city as murders pile up and a police detective is driven crazy trying to figure out the source of all the crime. The wise gumshoe never manages to grab a hold of any clues that lead to anything substantial except the ones that point to Dr. Mabuse, a catatonic man locked up in an insane asylum. There are rumours that the doctor controls people through hypnosis, but there is no reason to believe this bosh; unfortunately, the search for hard answers sends everyone in circles and it’s the only possible explanation. This deliciously strange procedural by Fritz Lang is a grab-bag of the delightful and the dull, highlighted by superb visual motifs that are unforgettable (including some very nifty special effects), but also hampered by an overly convoluted plot that is frustrating to follow. What makes it memorable, other than its historical interest as a Hitler allegory that got it banned in Germany for twenty years, is Lang’s expertise itself, a man who in the burgeoning years of sound could make something so smooth and brisk at a time when other films were held back by stilted scenes of dialogue and awkward pacing.
The Criterion Collection: #231