If you know how to play cards, this movie will be one peculiar crime drama. As for me, I never learned to play cards, besides Uno. That wasn’t an issue though! I quite enjoyed it. Dr. Mabuse is one amusing, dickhead of a character. I didn’t burst out laughing. My eyes looked at the story with curious awe.
Really, why hadn’t I seen this sooner? It was on Netflix but I put it off because it was almost five hours long. Yes, I am lazy when it comes to long movies…and do wonder when they will end when watching them…but then I realize I had a pretty good time.
I found this film on sale in the silent film section in this record store I always go to. After going through a million Buster Keaton films and Nosferatus, I found Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler. Actually, I had two choices. I found a digipack of Max Linder films also. Hmm…I do like Max Linder…but my other option was a movie directed by Fritz Lang. Having been recently fascinated with Frau im Mond, I made the decision of buying Mabuse. Would I like this? It was 4 hours and 57 minutes long. Oh, sweet God! How would I get through a crime film of such length! I kept thinking it would take me months to watch.
On Sunday, I took advantage of my last day off to lock myself in my room and watch Mabuse. The film is divided into two parts: The Great Gambler: A Picture of the Time and Inferno: a Game for the People of our Age.
The film begins with Mr. Mabuse nagging at one of his assistants for being on cocaine once again. You should know that Mabuse is unable to have feelings of compassion or friendship, so he just chooses to nag and raise hell. He chooses a card from his deck with the faces of certain men…
I already know there is a crime coming up. We see two men seated on a train…a car waiting on a nearby road… What happens next is that an important document is stolen, a man murdered, and the German stock market is caught in turmoil.
But, who is the man watching all these men run around in hysterics? It’s Mabuse! His plan was to steal a document regarding a trade between The Netherlands and Switzerland… When the stock market was driven to panic, he took advantage and got profit!
From this film, I got the assumption that Dr. Mabuse likes playing dress-up and has an identity crisis.
What follows next? We see his other shenanigans. He has like an illegal money counterfeit business in which he forces blind people to work. He is a gambler. A psychoanalyst. I can’t remember all his roles because there were so many.
One big thing I noticed in this film was that nearly all the Die Nibelungen actors are here! Paul Ritcher who played Siegfried here plays Edgar Hull. Rudolf Klein-Rove played Attila and also the crazy inventor in Metropolis and here he is Mabuse! Bernhard Welcker played King Gunther and here he was Inspector von Wenk! I recognized the lady who played Carozza (I love her dancing!) from Sumurun…Julius Falkenstein from The Oyster Princess…and Alfred Abel from Sappho! It was like seeing old friends.
Later on in the story, we see Mabuse gambling with different victims. He hypnotizes them to make them play badly. Oh, yes, he also pretends to be other people. He has different sets of wigs at his house.
His first victim is Edgar Hull, who ends up getting practically robbed by Mabuse. Soon Inspector von Wenk starts to notice and that is how the excitement intensifies and the story progresses…
There is an explosion! A bored wife disillusioned with the world! Gambling! Hypnosis! A shootout! Hallucinations! Oh, yeah, and a séance.
I always get tired of seeing this image everywhere! The séance lasted about thirty seconds in the whole film and it’s even the cover of my DVD copy of it. Well, next time you see it, remember this is from Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler. It’s a cool shot though. It’s quite laughable.
I took about a two hour break between both parts. I did watch it on the same day though. What can I say about this film? Remarkable. Fritz Lang never fails to impress and neither does Thea von Harbou.
The film was fascinating to look at. I really loved the camera effects. The part where the ghosts crowd around Mabuse gives me chills. Makes me laugh, too.
Morale of the film: The desire of power can consume you and lead you to your greedy doom.
It wasn’t a film I instantly fell in love with, but I really liked it. The score was spectacular and made every scene so very alive for the viewer.
I have a certain affinity for German silent movies that I generally don’t have for others…
Watch this if you can! I can write about how the special effects enchanted my spirit and how this was ahead of its time, but I’m not a film expert and, frankly, writing like that kind of bores me so just see the movie!
By the way, Rudolf Klein-Rove is one hell of an actor and Inspector von Wenk was adorable!
This is my 250th post! Yipee!