Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original Title: Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler
Germany, 1922. Uco-Film GmbH. Screenplay by Fritz Lang, Thea von Harbou, based on the novel by Norbert Jacques. Cinematography by Carl Hoffmann. Produced by Erich Pommer. Music by Konrad Elfers, Robert Israel, Aljoscha Zimmermann. Production Design by Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, Karl Stahl-Urach, Karl Vollbrecht. Costume Design by Vally Reinecke.
Director Fritz Lang made three films about the nefarious Dr. Mabuse, beginning with this extravagant, four and a half hour crime drama. Mabuse is a master of disguise who has the power to hypnotize people into doing his will, first crashing the stock market by stealing insider information and then ruining a young millionaire by getting him to play large sums badly at a casino. Berlin’s police commissioner Von Wenk gets onto Mabuse’s game, strong enough even to outfox his hypnosis, and pursues him devotedly throughout the mammoth running time after Mabuse’s attempt to get rid of him accidentally gets the millionaire killed instead. By today’s standards the plot isn’t exactly brimming over with unforgettable incidents, but no one should ever compare films of the silent era to today’s standards; Lang is clearly a masterful artist well ahead of his contemporaries, creating a host of detailed characters performed with expert subtlety by his cast, and filling the movie with gorgeous art-deco images and a series of beautifully filmed parties, seances and nightclubs.