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Testament des Dr Mabuse, Das

Entry updated 9 May 2022. Tagged: Film.

Film (1933; vt The Last Will of Dr Mabuse, 1943) Nero-Film AG. Directed by Fritz Lang. Written by Thea von Harbou, loosely based on Norbert Jacques's then-unpublished fragment «Mabuses Kolonie» ["Mabuse's Colony"] (written circa 1930). Cast includes Oscar Beregi Sr, Gustav Diessl, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Wera Liessem, Otto Wernicke. 122 minutes. Black and white.

Ten years have passed since the climax of Dr Mabuse, der Spieler (1922), when it is revealed that Dr Mabuse (Klein-Rugge in both films) had gone insane. He has been incarcerated ever since in an insane asylum run by Professor Baum (Beregi), where he spends his time crafting detailed plans for criminal assaults on the world; these instructions are conveyed from behind a curtain, apparently by Mabuse (though in fact a gramophone), to his gang, which executes them. But when Baum describes Mabuse's case to Inspector Karl Lohmann (Wernicke), he claims that the mad doctor has died, and that his Mad Scientist dreams of becoming the Secret Master of an irrecoverably corrupted world have died with him.

Lohmann is only briefly swayed by this narrative, and gradually discovers that Mabuse has become Baum's Doppelganger, and that the professor is nothing more than a mouthpiece of temporarily disincarnate (but potentially Reincarnated) evil. Melodramatic episodes, involving criminals, Sex, love and betrayal, delay the ending. Not entirely convincingly, Baum himself goes insane, and the last shots of the film show him tearing up Mabuse's detailed plans. But neither Fritz Lang and his then wife Thea von Harbou were likely to have conceived of this climax as terminating Mabuse's Testament in the land of terror Germany was becoming by 1933. Both experienced the consequences of the survival of that screed: Lang left Germany later the same year; Von Harbou, already a convert to Nazism by 1932, remained. [JC]


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