Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (1922) Poster

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8/10
"He's the damnation and the salvation!"
Steffi_P15 April 2008
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.
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9/10
superior for its time
mukava99111 June 2008
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.
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8/10
Not only for students of German Cinema!
conn24h31 March 2005
In this review I refer to the Transit Film DVD edition from the F W Murnau Foundation (or Stiftung, if you understand German!). This 2 DVD set is an excellent restoration of this(these?) movie(s). At three and a half hours, some may argue that it is a little daunting for the uninitiated silent film viewer, but in my humble opinion it is so well made (by Fritz Lang) that it still stands up today as a masterpiece of "gangster cinema". Shot between November 1921 and March 1922, the film was made only a couple of years after Lang's directorial debut (Halblutt - 1919), and five years before Metropolis - perhaps Lang's masterpiece. It can be argued that it represents the start of a 'series' of gangster/crime related movies by Lang, and parallels can be drawn to Spione (Spies) of 1927/28, and M (1931 - Lang's first talkie), and of course, The Testament of Dr Mabuse (1932/33). There was also a final addition from 1960, The Thousand Eyes of Dr Mabuse, but that is obviously of a different era. It is interesting to observe that Lang/von Harbou clearly were attempting to create a screen detective character something like Sherlock Holmes in the form of Commissioner Lohmann, (superbly played by Otto Wernicke) for it is he who is the detective in both M and Testament. However, I digress. Where both M and Testament concern themselves with the work of the police in an almost documentary fashion (especially M), Der Spieler is almost exclusively concerned with the working of the criminal mind. Mabuse is played by Rudolf Klein-Rogge, one of Lang's favourites - though one wonders what Klein-Rogge made of Lang - Thea von Harbou, the screen-writer, married Lang in 1921, after divorcing Klein-Rogge! He gives a masterful performance as Mabuse, and dominates the film. Even when not on the screen, his omnipotence pervades the entire proceedings. Whilst I wouldn't go so far as to describe the picture as 'gripping', it still has the power to hold the attention for most of its mighty three and a half hours. For me, at least, this is aided in no small measure by the magnificent new soundtrack by Aljocha Zimmermann, whose use of leitmotif (in true Teutonic style) adds immeasurably to the overall enjoyment of the film. I strongly recommend this picture, not only to serious students of German Silent Cinema (they'll have seen it anyway!) but to anybody who enjoys a good gangster/crime story. If you have a hang-up about silent movies, then in all honesty this isn't going to change your mind - but give it a try. I think its worth the effort in the end. Trivia: Although made in Berlin, and the numerous vehicles all drive on the right as one would expect, they are without exception, all right hand drive!
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10/10
Dr. Mabuse and The Noir Moment
Cinebug12 August 2001
Warning: Spoilers
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD

What separates film noir from the standard crime or gangster film? Psychology. Where the common criminal is simply interested in money, the film noir villain has a profound understanding of human nature and enjoys playing with the lives of others as much for pleasure as for gain.

The year is 1922. The place is post WW I Germany. It was a time of inflation so great and so accelerated that a loaf of bread costing a mere 20 thousand marks in the morning could be priced at 5 million marks by evening. Restaurant prices skyrocketed while diners were eating. Businesses paid their workers twice a day so their money would have some buying power. By November of 1923, it took 4.2 trillion German marks to buy a single American dollar. Moral chaos ensued.

To set the amoral mood of DR. MABUSE, people are shown climbing the ladder of success by exploiting the vices of others. But no value judgments are made. We see only that vice is profitable, not that it is wrong or right. The economic instability of the period gives rise to extraordinary moral decadence: a dancer performs a stage show with blatant sexual imagery; drug addicts are everyday characters, and prostitute children are openly soliciting in the streets. It's indicative of this film's milieu that even the good characters are allowed to enjoy Schadenfreude-----------pleasure at the misfortunes of others. The Countess Tolst, for instance, enjoys watching the faces of gamblers when they lose at cards------suggesting that even angels can become devils when they live in the hell of social chaos.

The German people of 1922 needed a savior to believe in. But he didn't have to have wings and a halo. He could be a criminal mastermind. Dr. Mabuse is such a man. He has no compassion, no mercy, no friends------------no equals-------only servants. He's professor Moriarty and the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu rolled into one. He isn't simply a mastermind who sits in a sterile room directing his criminal activities; he's also a master of disguise who enjoys becoming a different person to commit his crimes. His cohorts are so dedicated to him that they willingly sacrifice their lives--------some by suicide----------so that he can continue his great work. He is convinced of his mental and psychic gifts and lesser humans are only toys for the various games he plays. But like a child, he's unaware that any harm can come to him and is unprepared for police commissioner Von Wenk to be as ruthless and as merciless as he is.

The film is filled with noir moments: One of the crisises of the film comes during the card game between Mabuse and Commissioner Von Wenk, when both men are heavily disguised. Mabuse tries to psychically overpower Wenk's mind and in a highly cinematic noir moment, the room totally darkens, obscuring everyone but them to emphasize the contest of wills. Another highly symbolic noir moment comes when Count Tolst-------who is socially disgraced because Mabuse hypnotized him into cheating at cards------------walks from the shadows, a defeated man, toward Mabuse, standing in a bright beam of light, symbolic of the German people's yearning for a savior. Still another is when Countess Tolst pretends to be arrested and is thrown into the same prison cell as Cara Carrozza, to get information on the man Von Wenk calls "The Great Unknown." Cara tells her of Mabuse's greatness and of her love for him, causing the Countess to admire her for protecting the man she loves. The noir moment comes when Cara sits alone in her cell---------wondering if Mabuse has betrayed her-----------the shadow of the prison bars shine on her face and we realize she is not only in a physical prison, but an emotional prison of Mabuse's making.

It's not difficult to see DR. MABUSE as the first film noir, and one of the finest films of the German silent period. Definitely a film of its time, it could have predicted the rise of Adolph Hitler had anyone been paying attention.

The message of the film is that theft and murder in pursuit of a great cause are permissible, but that cheating is dishonorable and will be punished by fate. Mabuse is a gambler who played with life. He lost because he committed a gambler's only sin. He cheated, and his punishment is to be haunted by the ghosts of his own misdeeds.

Originally, a two part film running nearly three and a half hours, but mostly seen in a highly edited version of half that length. While I haven't seen the upcoming Image DVD and can't comment on its picture and sound quality, it restores the film back to its original length and adds a music track. It's a film every student of cinema should see, especially if you enjoy film noir.

Jay F.
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Dr. Mabuse begins his reign of cinematic crime in this innovative and highly influential silent movie, which retains much of its power for patient viewers.
J. Spurlin10 February 2007
Dr. Mabuse is a name familiar to almost everyone in Germany, but most Americans would have to be told that he's a criminal mastermind, psychiatrist, gambler and hypnotist with supernatural powers. Mabuse is notable for his brilliant disguises and his gang of minions who conspire against people and institutions for the sole purpose of bringing power and wealth to himself. This evil genius is known only as The Great Unknown to those who wish to stop him. Mabuse was created by Norbert Jacques for a novel which has never been out of print in Germany. The director of this film, Fritz Lang, claimed him for his own; and now Mabuse is known not as a character in a novel but as a character in three Fritz Lang films, the first of which is this innovative and hugely influential silent movie.

Lang's storytelling techniques are especially innovative, but later spy films, including Lang's own, have greatly improved on what's here and leave modern viewers alert to the slow pace, murky details and confusing plot twists. What hasn't been improved upon is the artistry behind the photographic effects. I don't mean the effects themselves: modern special effects are infinitely more sophisticated. This film's effects have a great impact even—or especially—on today's viewer who is accustomed to a rapid-fire series of elaborate, gaudy computer-generated pictures, like those in, say, Peter Jackson's "King Kong." Nothing in that film is as memorable to me as this movie's scene where the camera closes in on Mabuse and everything around him goes dark, leaving only one glowing, malevolent head floating in the blackness.

The highly exaggerated style of acting from everyone in the cast would look idiotic if seen in isolated bits. Von Welk (Bernhard Goetzke), tilting back his head and crossing his eyes as Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) hypnotizes him, would have been a perfect clip for Jay Ward's "Fractured Flickers." As part of this film, every melodramatic moment from the cast is effective in a way that a more naturalistic style can never be.

Fans of the Mabuse films, which number many more than just Lang's three, are sometimes disappointed by this first incarnation. This Mabuse allows himself violent emotional outbursts, while the later version is marked by icy self-control. The more familiar Mabuse may be an improvement over this one, but they don't quite replace him, and those films don't quite replace this one. This is a treasure for film historians, and indirectly a treasure for fans of the countless movies influenced by it.

For those who simply want a good movie, there's plenty here to reward them, provided they are very, very patient.
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9/10
The manipulative Dr. Mabuse.
Boba_Fett113810 March 2007
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

http://bobafett1138.blogspot.com/
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Karmaspiel between worlds
chaos-rampant18 September 2011
I really urge you to watch this, but watch beyond the caper, watch the character beyond the simply nefarious evil mastermind that he appears as, and you'll be stunned with the the complexity of forces at work; at the center is a man who - having mastered the mind - can guide vision into shaping worlds and, from the inverse point-of-view of the unwitting victims, the shaped world as the stage of some indecipherable, chaotic spiel.

So what this really is, is the precursor of film noir. The genre as later assumed by American hands - once Germans fled there - transferred Mabuse out of sight, but the fundamental movement remains: we had to assume the notion that somewhere, on a cosmic station above, the images that down here formed reality were being controlled and manipulated. What the protagonists in these films experienced as a world of fertile, opportunous chaos, and would therefore exploit to their own advantage, was eventually revealed to be a chimera of the mind led astray; the world was being supervised and kept in ledgers all along.

This is pretty amazing stuff to have then; we can see the manipulator inside the manipulated world, and the motions that bring consequences on both ends of the illusion. The first scene shows Mabuse dealing cards with on them the faces of the players, the actors who are about to perform in the orchestrated fiction - Mabuse's inside the film, and also Lang's film about Mabuse. And there is a woman who is our surrogate viewer in all this; she watches the gamblers from a distance, searching faces for thrills and sensations.

All this touches at the heart of self-referential cinema in ways that still astound by how erudite, how in-sightful. Viewers who are looking for films about the mind weaving films will be delighted.

There is one scene that will be absolutely unequaled in film until the second great cinema of Resnais and Tarkovsky some forty years later. It shows Mabuse operating an illusion on stage before a packed theater; the entire audience watches transfixed at people magically walking out of a screen into the middle of the auditorium - and vanishing at a snap of the fingers - none of them realizing the confrontation that is actually playing out within the fantasy.

But there is an extra layer that further elevates this. So what is perceived by the players as unluck or the chance turn of a card, from our double perspective rooted in Mabuse's mind is revealed as part of the same, decisive plan. Yet Mabuse is not a godlike presence, he is steeped in human passions; icy but on occasion petulant, seething, lusting, the mask full of emotional cracks.

So, on one level we have a controlled reality as a puppet show of absurdities, but on the other end finally we get a glimpse of the mind cracking under the weight of what it must control, under the burden of the operated illusion. The final vision is a nightmare where these controlled images animate themselves against their tyrant. Tellingly it happens in a locked room; the blind people that were tasked by Mabuse to deal with his fortunes, in fact his counterfeit fortunes, now transform into apparitions of guilt.

Few films have so deeply influenced our cinematic vision, from Vertigo to Lynch. It has been since disguised and embellished, but it's revealed here for the first time.
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9/10
The police force are on the trail of Mabuse, a criminal mastermind wreaking havoc on Weimar Germany. But can they catch him before he strikes again or self-destructs?
maksquibs8 May 2008
Fritz Lang's first masterpiece, a four & a half hour double-feature with hardly a moment wasted, has been restored to stunning effect. (WARNING: In the KINO DVD edition, you MUST lower the contrast & brightness levels to reveal the full grey scale.) On one level, this is simply a far-fetched, but smashingly entertaining detective drama about Mabuse, a criminal mastermind who shows up in more disguises than Alec Guinness in KIND HEARTS & CORONETS to counterfeit, manipulate the stock exchange, kill personal rivals, run the drug racket and generally lord it over the pursuing police force of the modern city. If Part One offers a more devastating look at the perilous world that was Weimar Germany, there's still plenty of action & schemes left for Part Two. In MABUSE, Lang manages, more than he would in METROPOLIS, to hold all the expressionist elements (design, acting, story construction) in perfect balance. The dynamism for an early '20s pic, (before the era of easy camera movement) is simply phenomenal. And where else will you find an inter-title as glorious as: 'Eat some cocaine, you weakling!'
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An Interesting & Occasionally Fascinating Epic
Snow Leopard10 September 2004
Fritz Lang's epic story of "Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler" is always interesting, and at times fascinating. Lang obviously enjoyed filming this kind of material, and he adds numerous imaginative touches to it. Lang's distinctive approach and Rudolf Klein-Rogge's portrayal of Mabuse give it some lasting images to go with the involved story.

Movies about master criminals are hardly rare, and even the more popular movies of the genre are often shallow and over-praised. In some respects, the story of Dr. Mabuse is similar to most: he has an extensive bag of tricks that he uses to pull off his schemes, and the movie often holds your attention simply by making you guess what he is planning to do next. But there is more psychological depth to the Mabuse story than there is in most such movies, and this is complemented by the distinctive array of settings and the overall portrayal of society, which at times suggest themes that go well beyond the personal battle between Mabuse and the law.

While quite entertaining, this is not really a truly great movie, because on the whole it just does not have that much to say. It is all too easy for film-makers to depict a decadent, morally-neutral society in a way that seems more profound than it really is. Lang is markedly superior to most of the present-day film-makers who try to create Mabuse-style characters and stories, which is why this has enough substance to have held up pretty well over the years.

As entertainment, "Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler" compares well with almost anything of its kind, and it is as good as any of Lang's own films. As a work of art, though, even in Lang's own filmography it has to take a back seat - though perhaps not by a lot - to "Metropolis" and other more profound works.
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Mabuse
Michael_Elliott29 February 2008
Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Part one of Fritz Lang's epic two part series as Dr. Mabuse making a potion that will allow him to rob people at the card table but soon one of his former victims and the State Attorney are hot on his trail. Needless to say, this thing is masterfully directed by Lang who builds the perfect underworld and allows a really beautiful and exciting film to take place. The cinematography is also brilliant and the performances are nice as well. There's a bit of a dry spot towards the end but the climax is perfectly executed to make way for part two.

Dr. Mabuse: King of Crime (1922)

*** (out of 4)

Part two of Lang's epic has Dr. Mabuse slowly coming unraveled. I found the first part of the film to be more entertaining overall but the ending to this part can't be topped as it shows Lang in an early stage doing something that would later be seen in M. The ending inside the tunnel and the follow up of Mabuse being "haunted" contains terrific atmosphere and manages to be quite creepy as well. However, the first part of this film really drags in spots mainly because the camera is taken off Mabuse and centers on the other characters, none of which are as interesting as Mabuse. With the two films running nearly four-hours, Lang manages to make a very impressive epic, although some of this could have used some editing.
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A true stroke of genius from Lang, better than M
sebaveron20017 February 2004
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILERS!!!

Made 9 years before "M" and 3 before "Metropolis", Fritz Lang's true masterpiece about a Gambler Dr Mabuse who tries to possess a gambler's mind, enter a romantic french dancer, her brother named Richard Fleury, yes, Fleury. It was the first ever film to recieve the UK certificate "18", Fritz Lang's film though is no more shocking than "M" in which the main character is a mentally ill child molester! Anyway, back to the point, Mabuse is a stroke of genius, worth watching, whoever you are!

****/****
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10/10
Mesmerizing
Polaris_DiB19 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Dr. Mabuse has to be the best-written and most harrowing villain ever created in the 20th century, and it's pretty amazing that he came so early. Fritz Lang's four-hour action-adventure mystery silent film is anything but an epic, and also is so good it doesn't even feel epic. Instead, for once, a four hour movie has been created where every scene and every moment has character development and meaning.

It's no wonder this film comes from post-war, pre-Nazi Germany. It's filled with anxiety and angst about the times... and indeed says, in many different places, "of the times." It is a work of public psychology that revels in the fear of hegemonic control, structures itself around what is perceived to be a downward spiral, and fills the screen with every reminder of the decay. Indeed, the villainous Dr. Mabuse does not only inhabit physically most of the screen time (are you sure he's not there? Look again), but his nefarious presence seems felt in even the most remote circumstance within the narrative.

Dr. Mabuse is not the only character, however. This film is filled with such good character development I don't think anything matches it up until Seven Samurai. There's Mr. Hull, the playboy victim of Mabuse who manages, in his short time in the narrative, to develop extreme sympathy for him before he dies. There's Ms. Carozza, the woman who falls for Mabuse so hard that she manages to subvert her own love for him through her own piety to him. And there's my favorite character of all, the Duchess, who's quixotic and energetic presence not only lights up the screen with splendor but also captures the affections of the silent era's greatest villain.

But you want to know something cool? Not only is this movie a veritable work of character-constructed art, it also has explosions, gun battles, intrigue, gambling, and sex! You can have your art and entertainment too! I can see why Fritz Lang returned to these characters over and over again. Not only are they fascinating in their own right, but they inhabit a world darkly appealing in its excesses and shadow play. This movie, despite its strong connection to "the times", is as much a work of consummate fantasy.

--PolarisDiB
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5/10
Dr. Mabuse -- A Dissent
alonzoiii-19 May 2010
After watching this movie -- which has an immense reputation and less than immense execution, one wonders -- what gets a movie in the pantheon of great films? Is it reputation of the director? Is it the fact this movie probably is the first noteworthy film featuring a super-villain? Is it the good reviews from 1922? Or is it that the sequel to this movie (Testament of Dr. Mabuse) is brilliant, and, frankly, everything this one is supposed to be? Watching this film -- it is hard to figure out the answer. Because this film is a pretty good example of a talented filmmaker gone wrong, rather than anything intrinsically brilliant.

First of all, this film is far, far too long. Much of the film is spent with the exposition of Dr. Mabuse's fiendish plots, which are somewhat less, well, earth-shatteringly fiendish than one might expect. There are long scenes of silent actors chatting in front of indifferent sets, with lengthy title cards outlining the Doctor's miserable plots, or the investigator's complicated investigations.

Second, rather surprisingly for a film this length, the characters are not well developed. Mabuse, as a human being (as opposed to a mannequin for the makeup artist's art) really does not emerge until the second hour of the film. The film's only interesting character -- the countess who is so bored with life that she goes to the gambling dens to watch everyone else destroy themselves -- gets good moments in the second half of part one, but then just becomes a damsel in distress for most of the second part.

Third -- quite honestly, the plot is stupid. The great scheme occupying Mabuse for the bulk of this picture is the good doctor using his skills at hypnotism and disguise to force rich people to lose to him at cards. He could have saved us all a lot of bother if he just hypnotized those same rich people to write him a check. While, in many films of this type, the plots are equally daft, one is forced to spend more time with it because of the length of the film. There are plot twists in this movie that would be embarrassing in a B minus PRC film featuring Lionel Atwill. And, in this one, we get the prototype of a villain so in love with complicated methods of murder, that he has trouble actually getting his murder's accomplished.

Fourth, for a crime film, the action scenes just aren't that suspenseful. This a bit of surprise -- in Lang's immediately preceding film "Destiny" -- he displays an extraordinary mastery of pacing, and generating suspense. But in that movie, Lang crowds a lot of plot in a reasonably brief running time and creates a core of sympathetic characters. In this one, there really is not all that much going on for large spaces of the film, and the main character is decidedly not sympathetic.

This is not to say this is a bad film. It isn't. There are some great sequences scattered here and there =-- particularly when Mabuse and the investigator out to destroy him sit down to a game of cards. Also, there is no denying that it has been influential. But, if you are searching out good Mabuse, The Testament of Dr Mabuse is a better choice.
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8/10
There is a hell, but the inferno is in us.
pontifikator24 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (aka Dr Mabuse, der Spieler)

This is a two-part film by Fritz Lang. The first part is called "Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler, An Image of the Times," and the second is "Inferno, People of the Times." Together, the movie is over three and a half hours long. It is based on a novel written by Norbert Jacques, and the script for Lang's film was written by his wife Thea von Harbou (who had been married to one the film's stars, Rudolf Klein-Rogge). The film is difficult but interesting for a number of reasons.

The gist of the plot is that Dr. Mabuse (played by Klein-Rogge) is the arch-fiend of all society, an evil genius who can rule the world by the force of his will. He has a gang of henchmen that he controls in various ways: violence, hypnotism, corruption, money. Mabuse is wealthy from various schemes: stock market fraud, counterfeiting, and gambling. Mabuse affects a series of disguises when he gambles. He wins by overpowering the minds of the fellows at his table and making them lose even when they have winning hands. As an arch- fiend, Dr. Mabuse is the god-father of all the James Bond movie villains. The will of Dr. Mabuse is an irresistible force.

Our hero is State Attorney von Wenk, played with admirable restraint by Bernhard Goetzke. I'd put Goetzke in the same league as Sam Shepard in terms of looks and acting. Even though it's a silent movie we can tell von Wenk is laconic - there are lengthy scenes of him clenching his jaw as he ponders whatever he's pondering, the camera lingering on his handsome face. Von Wenk is made aware of numerous complaints of card-sharking at clubs and casinos, but it's always a different man (we know, of course, that it's Mabuse in disguise); von Wenk goes out to various gambling halls to ferret out his prey. And the game is afoot.

Mabuse and von Wenk meet, both in disguise, and fail to recognize each other. One of the fascinating parts of the movie is that von Wenk has heard of Mabuse as a psychiatrist and actually recommends to one of Mabuse's dupes that the dupe see Dr. Mabuse for treatment; naturally, it ends badly. The bulk of the first part of the movie sets us up to see Mabuse as the arch-fiend with his hordes of dupes doing his bidding whether they know it or not, whether they want to or not. Mabuse runs by his watch, and the beginning shows him constantly checking it and taking his servants to task for not being timely. His stock market manipulations require timing, and he carries them off with aplomb as all around him panic. He's silent throughout the chaotic scenes except for two statements: "I'm buying," then "I'm selling."

The film is set in 1922, when the Weimar Republic was at the height of inflation and the depths of morality. Lang gives us "An Image of the Times." Mabuse's speculations and criminal schemes fit into the milieu of the times in Germany. Mabuse has no morals, no scruples; his goal to to get whatever he wants when he wants it. From his point of view, there is only will. Mabuse has the will, and he will have his way.

In the second part, we see the havoc wrought on the people Mabuse has, well, abused. Suicides, protracted prison terms, deaths, all at the will of Mabuse. The inferno is in the mind, and Mabuse burns people up, then discards them as the trash they are.

I don't recommend this film for beginners in the experience of silent movies. It is very long, and the pacing is leisurely. Lang sets up long portraits of his actors and shows them moodily staring for long seconds. The script is not realistic, and the characters are not naturalistic. The acting sidles toward the stylized arm-thrown-across-the-brow to show anguish, but because nothing is natural in the movie, this style works here without being laughably histrionic. The sets verge toward German Expressionism, but maintain a certain reality that makes the apartments and rooms more believable as actual homes than, for example, the sets in "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari." "Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler" is a long series of long portraits of characters and settings. Lang establishes his characters by showing them in inaction.

The movie can be seen as a portrayal of the corruption of the Weimar Republic. The years immediately preceding 1922 were fraught with violence in the streets as extremists battled each other for control of cities and states within the republic. The government had started printing money to repay huge debts, but there were no goods to sell to other countries to earn the marks. This led to hyperinflation; one of Mabuse's counterfeiting schemes was to print only US dollars, because other currencies devalued before he could dispose of the counterfeits.

But this was also an era of unparalleled creativity, of which "Dr. Mabuse" is a prime example. The cabaret scene in Germany in the Twenties was unrivaled in its sexuality (the various treatments of "Cabaret" bear this out) but also unrivaled in its success as entertainment. The Bauhaus school of architecture and Expressionism in theatre, art, and cinema, are just two of the Weimar Republic's contributions to culture.

Be that as it may, instead of the triumph of the will expected by Dr. Mabuse, we find him at the end insane. His attraction to Countess Told is worse the fatal -- Mabuse's will is impotent in the face of her refusal of him. Perhaps "Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler" foretells the rise of Hitler and his minions and dupes. Or perhaps the decadence and collapse of the Weimar Republic spawned arch villains willy nilly. Who can tell?
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10/10
Visionary beginning
Dr_Coulardeau14 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
It is interesting to discover or rediscover Fritz Lang. He was well known for one film, Metropolis, and then for a few American films, films he shot in the USA. But the full set of Dr Mabuse's films is fascinating in a way because it provides a rare vision on the German cinema from the early 1920s to 1960. The eye looking at the world from a German point of view that spans over Hitler, Nazism and the Second World War is Fritz Lang's. We know him for his highly symbolical Metropolis in which the meaning is built by visual and numerical symbols. In this Dr Mabuse it is different. There are quite a lot of symbols but inherited from the silent cinema of the old days, symbols that are there only to make clear a situation that had been depicted previously with pictures and no words, or a page of intertitles. Fritz Lang still uses that technique in his 1960 film, which is a long time overdue for a silent cinema technique. But that is a style, nothing but a way of speaking, not a meaning. The meaning is absolutely bizarre. Dr Mabuse is a highly criminal person but his objective is not to commit crimes in order to get richer or whatever. It is to control the world through his criminal activity. The world is seen as basically negative, leading to chaos and overexploitation, leading to anarchistic crime and nothing else because the only objective of this modern world is to make a profit by all means available. Dr Mabuse is a master mind of his time and for him crime is the only way to destroy that capitalistic world that he never calls capitalistic or Kapitalismus and to replace it with pure chaos that should be able to bring a regeneration, a rejuvenating epiphany, a re-founding experience. We find in his mind what we could find in some of the most important criminal minds in this world, like Carlos in France, or Charles Manson in the USA, or those sects that practice mass suicide in order to liberate the suicidees and to warn the world about the coming apocalypse. It is the mind and thinking of those who practice war as a revolutionary activity with a fundamentalist vision of their religions or politics and the world that is supposed to reflect that religion. They do not want to build a different society and when they are in power they are constantly aiming at antagonizing their own population and the world because they cannot exist if they do not feel some opposition that they can negate, bring down, crush, like in Iran, or in Germany with Hitler, though later on it was not much different under the Communists in East Germany. These visions need opposition to exist and they provoke that opposition by aiming at taking the control of the world with violence and imposing their control with more violence. That's Dr Mabuse, the main brain of a criminal decomposition and re-composition of society on an absolutely antagonistic vision of life. But that vision is very common. Just as common as this phrase "a half full glass is nothing but a half empty glass". Add antagonism to that dual vision and then you have a struggle to the death between the half empty glass that wants to be full and the half full glass that wants to be empty (or full?), one half only wanting to take what the other half has and impose his half to the other half to make the world one by the elimination of the other side of the coin. That dual antagonistic vision is the popular and shrivelled up approach of the communist catechism of Stalin, inherited from Marx's French son in law Paul Lafargue, or of course in all dictatorship that reduces life to a little red book, to one hundred quotations from the master thinker of the revolution. That's the world you feel in these films. Fritz Lang embodies this ideology of the mentally poor in that criminal character of his: kill, rob, steal, counterfeit. Even if you die when doing so, the world will change and remember. The master criminal has to die in his activity in order to regenerate the world. What Fritz Lang introduced in his double main feature of the early 1920s and in his Testament, is that the master brain of this vision internalizes this paranoid and psychotic vision of the world into himself and has to become psychotic himself and it is in his psychosis that he finds the energy to conquer the world again. In the third film, Dr Mabuse has been dead for a long time and is reincarnated by someone who finds his inspiration in the doctor. That is a far-fetched cinematographic and fictional antic that is necessary as a reference but brings nothing to the vision itself. A few years later that ideology was to conquer our imagination in many ways. First the Berlin Wall became the symbol of that vision the way it was carried and conveyed to the world by the East-German communists. Then we have to think of the various revolutionary movements like Der Baader Meinhof Komplex, Die Rote Armee Fraktion, to take some German examples. But think of the French Mesrine and the Italian revolutionary urban guerrilla warfare movements and you will have a fair picture of this psychotic criminal mind copied and pasted into the political field. The Maoist Red Guard and Cultural Revolution movement was quite typical of this approach. All that was going to come in 1960 and we must admit Fritz Lang was seeing ahead of his time, just as he had seen Hitler in his Testament of Dr Mabuse: a political leader based on hypnosis and mesmerizing people into blindly following a band of criminals.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
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Hypnotizing
tedg7 January 2006
This comment is for the nearly 4 hour Image DVD version.

No one thread is more fundamental to understanding film than noir. It is unique to cinema.

You owe it to yourself to understand it a bit and how it colors your way of seeing yourself and life around you. It really has been profoundly influential and has blossomed into several dozen derivative views today; often these are incorrectly called "ironic."

And if you choose to understand a thing by understanding its history, you may as well start here. To my mind, the way something emerged is the worst way to think of it, because you inherit all the limitations of the mind at each step. Much better to come to some insights based on what you see know and then look at the ancestors of that power.

You'll still end up here, but less drugged.

About Lang: I think of him as an intuitive, someone that just got what cinema was all about without having the patience or intellect to understand it. So he looks like a genius when he and the medium were young and pretty consistently looks less brilliant as the world grew up around him.

So for me, this is his very best film. Sure, "Metropolis" has better sets and "M" a more consistent dark feel. But I think as a film, this is his most original.

It isn't what we'd come to know as pure noir. You'll have to devise your own definition, but for me the core of noir is the intrusion of the watcher's intentions into the way the story unfolds and hence the fate of the poor players. A capricious fate, innocents, odd coincidences are the core of this definition and you can see it here.

It is particularly sharp here because of what I can "folding." Our title character is a master manipulator. He can hypnotize them. He can literally get them to see things. In fact, toward the end, he is on stage in front of an audience and charms them into seeing a movie. Wait, the characters (here they are Arabs, but would have been seen as Turks by Germans) actually come out of the screen and down the aisle! Then a snap of the fingers and they are gone. Many times in the movie he creates effects like this.

He is in some way our representative, making and controlling what we see. But we have some power over him, because we get to — by the end — manipulate him into a space where he is captured. Get this, it is his "counterfeit" factory, introduced it seems only so that he can be shown as a counterfeit.

Oh, and watch his mastery of disguise.

Lang is not a man I will encourage you to watch under any circumstances. But you really must see this, and perhaps him unwittingly caricaturing himself in "Contempt."

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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10/10
Original film noire
jperkins3 May 2000
This, AFAIK, is the original film noire. The themes that Lang brings out in the German Mabuse trilogy are honored and imitated by Hollywood, particularly by Anthony Mann (Railroaded, Raw Deal), Robert Aldrich (Kiss Me Deadly) and Howard Hawks (The Big Sleep). Der Spieler is a must see for those interested in the history of film.
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10/10
DR. MABUSE And The Noir Moment
Cinebug10 August 2001
Warning: Spoilers
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD

What separates film noir from the standard crime or gangster film? Psychology. Where the common criminal is simply interested in money, the film noir villain has a profound understanding of human nature and enjoys playing with the lives of others as much for pleasure as for gain.

The year is 1922. The place is post WW I Germany. It was a time of inflation so great and so accelerated that a loaf of bread costing a mere 20 thousand marks in the morning could be priced at 5 million marks by evening. Restaurant prices skyrocketed while diners were eating. Businesses paid their workers twice a day so their money would have some buying power. By November of 1923, it took 4.2 trillion German marks to buy a single American dollar. Moral chaos ensued.

To set the amoral mood of DR. MABUSE, people are shown climbing the ladder of success by exploiting the vices of others. But no value judgments are made. We see only that vice is profitable, not that it is wrong or right. The economic instability of the period gives rise to extraordinary moral decadence: a dancer performs a stage show with blatant sexual imagery; drug addicts are everyday characters, and prostitute children are openly soliciting in the streets. It's indicative of this film's milieu that even the good characters are allowed to enjoy Schadenfreude-----------pleasure at the misfortunes of others. The Countess Tolst, for instance, enjoys watching the faces of gamblers when they lose at cards------suggesting that even angels can become devils when they live in the hell of social chaos.

The German people of 1922 needed a savior to believe in. But he didn't have to have wings and a halo. He could be a criminal mastermind. Dr. Mabuse is such a man. He has no compassion, no mercy, no friends------------no equals-------only servants. He's professor Moriarty and the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu rolled into one. He isn't simply a mastermind who sits in a sterile room directing his criminal activities; he's also a master of disguise who enjoys becoming a different person to commit his crimes. His cohorts are so dedicated to him that they willingly sacrifice their lives--------some by suicide----------so that he can continue his great work. He is convinced of his mental and psychic gifts and lesser humans are only toys for the various games he plays. But like a child, he's unaware that any harm can come to him and is unprepared for police commissioner Von Wenk to be as ruthless and as merciless as he is.

The film is filled with noir moments: One of the crisises of the film comes during the card game between Mabuse and Commissioner Von Wenk, when both men are heavily disguised. Mabuse tries to psychically overpower Wenk's mind and in a highly cinematic noir moment, the room totally darkens, obscuring everyone but them to emphasize the contest of wills. Another highly symbolic noir moment comes when Count Tolst-------who is socially disgraced because Mabuse hypnotized him into cheating at cards------------walks from the shadows, a defeated man, toward Mabuse, standing in a bright beam of light, symbolic of the German people's yearning for a savior. Still another is when Countess Tolst pretends to be arrested and is thrown into the same prison cell as Cara Carrozza, to get information on the man Von Wenk calls "The Great Unknown." Cara tells her of Mabuse's greatness and of her love for him, causing the Countess to admire her for protecting the man she loves. The noir moment comes when Cara sits alone in her cell---------wondering if Mabuse has betrayed her-----------the shadow of the prison bars shine on her face and we realize she is not only in a physical prison, but an emotional prison of Mabuse's making.

It's not difficult to see DR. MABUSE as the first film noir, and one of the finest films of the German silent period. Definitely a film of its time, it could have predicted the rise of Adolph Hitler had anyone been paying attention.

The message of the film is that theft and murder in pursuit of a great cause are permissible, but that cheating is dishonorable and will be punished by fate. Mabuse is a gambler who played with life. He lost because he committed a gambler's only sin. He cheated, and his punishment is to be haunted by the ghosts of his own misdeeds.

Originally, a two part film running nearly three and a half hours, but mostly seen in a highly edited version of half that length. While I haven't seen the upcoming Image DVD and can't comment on its picture and sound quality, it restores the film back to its original length and adds a music track. It's a film every student of cinema should see, especially if you enjoy film noir.

Jay F.
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9/10
A Great Film Noir, in a Post-War Germany
claudio_carvalho31 May 2004
In 1922, in a post- World War I Germany, the psychoanalyst Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein Rogge) is a malefic genius of evil. He is a cold person, without friends or respect for anybody, and through his powerful mind, he steal persons, using many tricks. His mate is Cara Carozza (Aud Egede Nissen), a dancer from the Folies Berger. His identity is unknown, and Chief Inspector Norbert Von Wenck (Bernhard Goetzke) is chasing Dr. Mabuse. After the death of the millionaire Edgar Hull (Paul Richter), inspector Von Wenck has a crush on the widow Countess Graefin Told (Gertrude Welcker), sister of Count Graf Told (Alfred Abel). But Dr. Mabuse desires her and abducts her. Dr. Mabuse will develop a mouse-and-cat game with inspector Von Wenck. Yesterday I watched this excellent Fritz Lang's film-noir for the first time. It is a great amoral story, which shows corruption everywhere in a post-war Germany. The problem in Brazil is the VHS released by the Brazilian distributor Continental, which makes hard to understand the story and deserves some comments as follows:

(a) In Brazil, Continental released this film in two VHSs: `Dr. Mabuse – O Jogador' (` Dr. Mabuse – The Gambler') and `Dr. Mabuse – O Inferno do Crime' (` Dr. Mabuse – The Hell of the Crime').

(b) Both films have serious mistakes in Portuguese in the subtitles.

(c) `Dr. Mabuse – O Jogador' (` Dr. Mabuse – The Gambler') uses a restored version in English. In this version, the Chief Inspector is called De Witt; the Count and Countess are called Tolst and are brother and sister; the cover of the VHS indicates a running time of 81 minutes, but it has indeed only 55 minutes.

(d) `Dr. Mabuse – O Inferno do Crime' (` Dr. Mabuse – The Hell of the Crime') uses a totally damaged Italian version. In this version, the Chief Inspector is called Chief Attorney Von Wenk; the Count and Countess are called Tolst and they are married.

Therefore, in the version released in Brazil, it is hard to understand many parts of the story. I would like to know if the count and the countess are married, or brother and sister. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): `Dr. Mabuse – O Jogador' (` Dr. Mabuse – The Gambler') / `Dr. Mabuse – O Inferno do Crime' (` Dr. Mabuse – The Hell of the Crime')
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8/10
An Intriguing 4 Hour Silent Film
iquine1 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
(Flash Review)

Many people give me a crinkled face when I mentioned to them that I watched a four hour silent German film. Even after I say, "but it's a Fritz Lang film.", the crinkle turns to a blank stare. For a 4 hour silent film, it does a solid job of holding my attention. I discovered this film after first watching Dr. Mabuse in the 1933 film The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. That was pretty interesting so I had to give it a go. When the 2 disks came in the mail, I figured I got a bonus features disk and only then did I realize that the film's true duration need 2 disks to contain it all.

In The Gambler, Mabuse is a man with a thirst for mass wealth. He finds some very illegal and unusual ways to extract money from wealthy people, which play out in riveting scenes that are complimented by an effective music score. In addition to managing his illegal methods, Mabuse also has to be elusive as the police commissioner is focused on uncovering his schemes. There are stylized comparisons with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari with expressionistic designed sets while much of the movie takes place where the wealthy people frequent. See what clever methods Mabuse employs and will he be able to outsmart the police commissioner? Worth the time for those who choose to invest.
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8/10
Tsi-Nan-Fu!
Otoboke9 August 2016
Following their ruinous defeat during the War, Germany found itself in what is now commonly referred to as the Weimar era. It's a uniquely fascinating point in the country's history dominated by a stark contrast between impoverished casualties of war and lavishly wealthy benefactors soaking in aloof decadence. This divide between societal poles was not exactly one unlikely to be crossed by any daring enough to grab a boat and travel the uncertain waters however, and director Fritz Lang frequently visits this idea throughout his first major feature film still highly regarded to this day. Bouncing back and forth between seedy gangsters, the hoity-toity elite and those unfortunate enough to be tasked with keeping everything in order (the law), Lang embellishes his film with a unique and varied palette of both character and tone for its time.

Based on the novel Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler by Norbert Jacques, the story follows psychoanalyst-by-day, underground-criminal-mastermind- by-night Dr. Mabuse as he manipulates his way up the rungs of society seemingly with ease through various nefarious means including stock market manipulation and psychological mind-control during card games at high-profile gambling joints. The central theme here warns of granting overwhelming dominance through terror and misdirection at the hands of a charismatic megalomaniac misleading an already misled and fractured society; a warning that evidently fell on deaf ears before the eventual rise of the national socialists a little more than decade later, at which point Lang promptly packed his bags and headed for the States. While at its heart The Gambler may simply be something of a proto-noir gangster movie with light fantasy elements, lurking somewhere in the foreboding shadows that dominate most the film's sets is a thinly-veiled socio-political commentary that can—for the most part—be a fascinating and engrossing thriller all at the same time.

Mabuse is played by Rudolf Klein-Rogge, best known these days as Rotwang the Inventor from Lang's most famous film Metropolis released five years following The Gambler. While his performance in the science-fiction epic is limited but nevertheless memorable, it's a true delight to see him take center stage here as he delivers an iconic performance of the mad-but-brilliant Dr. Mabuse. As one of the character's central traits is psychological manipulation which he delivers through various fictional guises to further distract his victims, Klein-Rogge is given plenty of room to jump between personas which vary between the bizarre and ruthlessly callous, all of which he excels in bringing to life vividly. Supporting actors and actresses back up the leading man well, specifically Alfred Abel (also of limited Metropolis fame) and Gertrude Welcker who together play a husband and wife soon at the mercy of Mabuse's twisted puppeteer hands. Bernhard Goetzke is fine as State prosecutor Norbert von Wenk, but his character sticks too closely to convention to make him stand out as anything more than a pawn serving as the plot's catalyst to chug along with its rich character drama.

Those who have seen Metropolis and are less familiar with Lang's earlier works may be surprised or disappointed by the director's more restrained approach to expressionist sets and effects here in The Gambler. While his contemporaries at the time, Murnau (Nosferatu) and Wiene (Caligari), had fervently adopted the popular art movement in their respective films from the early 20s, Lang was still something of a critic and instead opted to lightly season Mabuse, rather than to glaze it every 15 minutes. Nevertheless, much of the film's most memorable and compelling moments arise from these experiments in expressionism that often mirror the film's otherwise dark and brooding atmosphere with surreal imagery that conveys the characters' inner madness, isolation, torment and despair. It's no wonder then that Lang would go on to make Die Nibelungen and Metropolis, each one more expressionist and surreal than the last.

So having said all that, it must also be noted that The Gambler is somewhere near 270 minutes long. What I've highlighted above are areas where around two-thirds of that runtime fully take advantage of what Mabuse has to offer. The other third is more problematic and occurs mostly during its middle section where the cat-and-mouse game between Mabuse and Norbert von Wenk goes around in circles. Though there are highlights here and there, a long stretch of 90 or so minutes occurs that feels like it could have been chopped down to 30 without much consequence other than to make the pace of the film easier to digest. And yes, I know the movie is in fact a two-part deal, but the fact that this means the first movie's ending is lacklustre and the second movie's opening lacks the enthralling immediacy of its predecessor doesn't change anything and still hurts an otherwise well-paced film.

Dr. Mabuse's first outing on the big screen is for the most part a rewarding and compelling experience, but nevertheless presents the viewer with a challenging middle half that tugs along lethargically rather than with the brisk pace that bookends the feature. However frustrating this section can be however, The Gambler remains as a feature that does a lot well and very little poorly. And thanks to a wonderfully memorable performance by Klein-Rogge backed up by an equally haunting atmosphere, rich cast of diverse characters and otherwise thrilling plot, Fritz Lang's 1922 testament to Germany's Weimar era is a captivating classic, not without its flaws, but also not one to be overlooked either.
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7/10
Dr. Mabuse great character
SnoopyStyle21 April 2016
Dr. Mabuse is a master criminal. He and his gang organize a theft of a contract between Holland and Switzerland. In the ensuing market crash, he is able to clean up and then sell when it rebounds after the contract is recovered. In the next scam, he hypnotizes Edgar Hull, son of a rich family, and wins massively gambling against him. Hull is left with a 150k Mark debt despite having no memory of the loss. Prosecutor Von Wenk is investigating a series of similar gambling scams and nobody has any memory of the incidents.

I saw the 3 hr 50 version. It is an early silent classic. It brings a dark crime drama to the screen. Director Fritz Lang is pushing the envelop. The running length is a little daunting. Dr. Mabuse is a great character. I like the movie whenever he's on the screen. The protagonist Von Wenk doesn't show up until much later and isn't quite as compelling. There is the memorable circular gambling stage but Lang could have done more with that. There are many differences from more modern films. It would definitely be much tighter if made now. There is plenty of great work. This is exceptional for its time.
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8/10
Epitome of Evil
SenjoorMutt14 December 2015
Dr. Mabuse is probably the ultimate villain - he's charismatic, intelligent, and renown professor, but he also, manipulates with people, gambles, keeping salves, counterfeiting money, organizes murders and kidnappings, and he is just pure evil. He only doesn't chase the power and money, but he is simply evil. That all makes Dr. Mabuse the most evil man of the 1920's, and sets him as an example of great villain.

Under ascetic conditions of German film studios at the time Fritz Lang managed to direct his first masterpiece (out of many) and one of his most influential films. Mixing styles and elements from different genres Lang creates chilling underworld that just sucks the viewer in (at least here writer felt he would like to visit all those shady night clubs). And of course, the final gunfight that many later directors have copied on countless times.
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10/10
Dr. Mabuse's film debut.
ofpsmith13 June 2015
Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler is a 4 hour long film, making this the longest film I've ever seen as of this writing. Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) and his gang are planning to pull a huge heist in money using Mabuse's telepathic abilities. But Mabuse is up against state attorney Norbert Von Wenk (Bernhard Goetzke) who is investigating the strange happenings in Berlin. The story comes in two parts and it's a long one. Klein-Rogge does a great job as Mabuse who would later reprise his role in the next film, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. Mabuse's telepathic abilities as well as his abilities to take away someone else's will create a terrifying villain. This film is great. It's a long movie but if you find some extra time on your hands give it a watch.
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