Dr Mabuse, der Spieler

Tagged: Film

Film (1922; vt Dr Mabuse, the Gambler). Ullstein/UCO Film/Decla Bioscop/UFA. Directed by Fritz Lang. Written by Thea von Harbou, loosely based on Jacques {NORBERT}'s Doktor Mabuse, der Spieler (1920; trans Lilian A Clare as Dr. Mabuse, Master of Mystery 1923). Cast includes Alfred Abel, Bernhard Goetzke, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Aud Egede Nissen and Gertrud Welcker. In two parts, 95 minutes and 100 minutes. B/W.

Although on the face of it just a sensational melodrama about a ruthless businessman/scientist intent on world gangsterism, this film anticipates several twentieth-century sf themes, both written and filmed. It pictures a Germany sinking into anarchy and corruption, ready to be exploited by a man – more of an evil genius – to whom chaos is almost an end in itself. Mabuse (Klein-Rogge) has strong Hypnotic powers and can summon visions to control the weak. The Dystopia depicted looks forward to any number of sf books and films. The chaos-lover whose weapons are as much psychological as technological seems to anticipate, for example, the novels of Alfred Bester. The idea of a decaying society controlled and exploited by a secret group – the essence of cultural Paranoia – appears throughout sf, often in the early novels of C M Kornbluth and Frederik Pohl, for example. The film shows how artistically potent the themes of pulp fiction can be when distilled and concentrated, and imaged with such ferocity. In Part One, Ein Bild der Zeit ["An Image of our Time"], Mabuse and his web of henchmen penetrate and corrupt society at all levels. In Part Two, Inferno – Menschen der Zeit ["Inferno – Men of our Time"], Mabuse becomes wholly mad and is incarcerated in an asylum. Lang, who went on to make the sf films Metropolis (1926) and Die Frau im Mond (1929; vt The Woman in the Moon), also made two Mabuse sequels, Das Testament des Dr Mabuse (1933; vt The Testament of Dr Mabuse) and Die Tausend Augen des Dr Mabuse (1960; vt The Thousand Eyes of Dr Mabuse; vt The Diabolical Dr Mabuse). In the early 1960s five further Mabuse films were made in Germany, not by Lang; these include Scotland Yard jagt Dr Mabuse ["Scotland Yard Hunts Dr Mabuse"] (1963; vt Dr Mabuse vs Scotland Yard). [PN]

see also: Dr. M.

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