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Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 4, 2016 by  



Fritz Lang’s “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is no doubt a wonderful, impressive, bold and also an artistic film that showcases German expressionism with efficacy. This new restoration is definitely a definitive presentation of “”Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” and another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang Blu-ray release that I highly recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Friedrich-Wilheim-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1922

DURATION: 270 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio), Stereo 2.0

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber Inc.

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: September 13, 2016


Based on the novel by Norbert Jacques

Directed by Fritz Lang

Screenplay by Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou

Produced by Erich Pommer

Music by Konrad Elfers, Robert Israel, Aljoscha Zimmermann

Cinematography by Carl Hoffman

Art Direction by Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, Karl Stahl-Urach, Karl Vollbrecht

Costume Design by Vally Reinecke


Starring:

Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Dr. Mabuse

Aud Egede-Nissen as Cara Carozza, the dancer

Gertrude Welcker as Countess Dusy Told

Afred Abel as Count Told/Richard Fleury

Bernhard Goetzke as Prosecutor von Wenk

Paul Richter as Edgar Hull

Robert Forster-Larrinaga as Spoerri

Hans Adalbert Schlettow as Georg, the Chauffeur

Georg John as Pesch

Karoly Huszar as Hawasch


A truly legendary silent film, Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler had a major impact on the development of the crime thriller, building upon the work of the pioneering French film serialist Louis Feuillade (Les Vampires) and firmly establishing it as a significant film genre. This epic two-part tale was originally released as two separate films, respectively subtitled The Great Gambler and Inferno, and that format is reproduced here. The plot revolves around the pursuit of arch fiend Dr. Mabuse, a gambler, hypnotist, master of disguises and all-around criminal mastermind. Mabuse was the prototype for the sort of evil genius super-villains that would later become common in movies, whether it be in the James Bond pictures or in comic book adaptations like Superman and Batman. The film is dominated by the presence of Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Mabuse. A top German actor of the silent era, he is best known today for his performance as the mad scientist Rotwang in Lang’s Metropolis. Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler contains many of the elements that were expected from the crime genre at the time, including characters who slip in and out of disguise, mind control, gambling clubs, exotic women, brutal henchmen and unexpected plot twists. Lang’s directorial ability to handle such pulp material in a masterful fashion, while also using it as a way to examine the decadence of Germany in the 1920s, reaffirms his status as one of the true greats of the silent era.


Back in 1921, Luxembourgeois novelist Norbert Jacques created the character of Dr. Mabuse, a master of disguise and telepathic hypnosis and a notorious gambler.

Jacques 1921 novel “Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler” featured the debut of Dr. Mabuse and the novel became a best-seller.  And not long after its release, filmmaker Fritz Lang and his wife, writer Thea von Harbou would work on a screenplay adaptation.

The original version of the film was four and a half hours long and would be broken down into two sections:  “Part 1 – The Great Gambler: A Picture of the Time” and “Part II – Inferno: A Game for the People of Our Age”.  And with the success of the film, two sound sequels would be created: “The Testament of Dr. Mabuse” (1933) and “The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse” (1960).

While there were various versions of “Dr Mabuse: The Gambler”, the Murnau Foundation restored the 270 minute version of the film.  There is a final, restored version which lasts 297 minutes, a shortened USA video version and a shorter Russian re-cut version.

The version featured in the Kino Classics 2016 “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” Blu-ray release is the 270 minute version.  And the Blu-ray release version is now currently available.

The first part of “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” introduces viewers to the criminal mastermind and master of disguise, Dr. Mabuse.  Using his powers of hypnosis and mind control, he is able to control people and oversee counterfeiting and gambling rackets all over Berlin.

With each visits to the gambling dens, he is often seen with different disguises.  And using his power, he often wins in gambling and uses the money to finance his plans.

Joining Dr. Mabuse are his henchmen: Spoerri (servant), Georg (chauffer), Pesch, Hawasch (employer of blind men involved in the counterfeiting operation), Fine (lookout) and dancer Cara Carozza, who is madly in love with Dr. Mabuse.

The film shows how much of a great criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse is.  From stealing a commercial contract to something much more diabolical when he sets his eyes on millionaire industrialist, Edgar Hull.  Whom Mabuse hypnotizes and makes Hull look reckless.

Meanwhile, a state prosecutor named Norbert von Wenk sees Hull and believing his is a victim being tricked by someone.  So, this leads Von Wenk to pursue this mysterious person responsible.

When Cara is captured by authorities for a tragedy that Mabuse and his henchmen are responsible for, von Wenk enlists a willing Countess Told (who is bored of her life and husband) to get information from Cara in jail.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mabuse becomes interested in the countess and wanting her to himself, he begins to hypnotize Count Told and finds a way to disgrace him.

In the second part of “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler”, having succeeded in discrediting Count Told, the Count is now suffering from depression and for help, he goes to Dr. Mabuse to help treat it.

As von Wenk tries to get answers from Cara, Dr. Mabuse’s henchmen begin targeting von Wenk and wanting him silenced.  Meanwhile, Mabuse tries to threaten the Countess to be with him, when she refuses, Dr. Mabuse vows to kill Count Told.

Will state prosecutor Norbert von Wenk be able to catch Dr. Mabuse and rescue the Countess or will the great criminal find a way to outwit his von Wenk?


VIDEO:

“Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is presented in 1:33:1 and black and white. It’s important to note that the 2K digital restoration is from the 35mm restoration performed by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, in cooperation with the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv of Berlin, the Filmmuseum Munich and L’Immagine Ritrovata of Bologna.

As for picture quality, as one can expect from a film that is nearly 95-years-old, you are going to see some scratches but in the context of silent films, “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” looks quite magnificent as there was great love (and a lot of hardwork) that was put into this restoration. The film on blu-ray does not exhibit any major nitrate damage, warping, blurring or blackening on the film print.

This is another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang film that looks absolutely magnificent on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is presented in lossless stereo with German intertitles with optional English subtitles. The music featured on this Blu-ray releases is by by Aljoscha Zimmerman.  The lossless soundtrack is crystal clear and I absolutely loved the score.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” comes with the following special features:

  • The Story Behind Dr. Mabuse – (52:34) Featuring the  Music of Mabuse with Composer Aljoscha Zimmermann discusses the music of Mabuse, Dr. Mabuse creator/writer Norbert Jacques who plays Dr. Mabuse and a look at Mabuse’s motives.

“The film is a document of our time, an excellent portrait of high society with its gambling passion and dancing madness, its hysteria and decadence, its expressionism and occultisms” – Fritz Lang, Die Welt am Montag, May 1, 1922

When one watches Fritz Lang’s “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler”, one can’t help but notice how much of society is showcased in one film.

From gambling, drug use, kidnapping, murder, corruption in the stock exchange, hypnotism, a homosexual mask maker, counterfeiting, violence and more.  Each encapsulated in a film full of German expressionism and Lang’s artistic perspective to showcase true evil by one man who not only entices people through gambling but also gambles with people’s lives including his own.

Each character representing a drudge of society, while set design and costume design showcase decadence of the era and surprising to many, this is earlier in Fritz Lang’s career as a filmmaker.  The way each segment is shot, the use of characters, their movements, their actions, each effective for the making of this film.

No doubt the experience would lend to Fritz Lang continuing to set the bar higher with each film, as “Die Nibelungen” would be crated two years later, “Metropolis”, “Spies”, “Woman in the Moon” to follow not long after.

And then for the sound era, with “M” and two more Dr. Mabuse films, “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is an amazing film for its time and it’s truly an artistic, yet action thriller that captivated audiences as the evil Dr. Mabuse appears unstoppable and his control over people is incredible, but yet we wonder throughout the film if the inspector, Norbert von Wenk, will be able to stop him.

I can see how reviewers of the time saw this film as epic but also a statement of society at the time.  And Fritz Lang said it well, “the film is a document of our time”.  What he created in 1922 is incredible but while I enjoy “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler”, in the many films of Fritz Lang’s oeuvre, many will have their silent film favorites of Fritz Lang and for me, I feel that I’m much too biased to his 1927 film “Metropolis”.  But make no doubt about it, “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is an enjoyable, yet long silent thriller.

As for the restoration of this wonderful Fritz Lang film, the 2K digital restoration supervised is fantastic. The film looks very good considering it’s nearly a century old and while scratches and few frames of damage do appear, there is no significant major nitrate damage or major film warping that interrupts your viewing of the film.

The lossless soundtrack features a wonderful music performance by Aljoscha Zimmerman and the music is presented in crystal clear lossless stereo.  In addition, there is also a three-part documentary included titled “The Story Behind Dr. Mabuse”.

Overall, Fritz Lang’s “Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” is no doubt a wonderful, impressive, bold and also an artistic film that showcases German expressionism with efficacy. This new restoration is definitely a definitive presentation of “”Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler” and another Kino Lorber Fritz Lang Blu-ray release that I highly recommend!

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