The Films (4.5/5)
Germany is at the mercy of a mysterious super villain. No one knows that the man responsible is master gambler and psychiatrist Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein- Rogge). As Dr. Mabuse slowly terrorizes the city and the rich, he chooses victimize the Hull estate, who hire Inspector Wenck (Bernhard Goetzke) to stop the master criminal. And so, begins a cat and mouse game of high stakes gambling, murder, mind control and disguise.
Fritz Lang made one of the big building blocks of espionage and action cinema with his epic silent two-parter, DR. MABUSE THE GAMBLER (1922). Based on the 1921 novel, Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler, by Norbert Jacques, DR. MABUSE THE GAMBLER is faithful adaptation of that novel, while borrowing elements from Louis Feuillade’s FANTOMAS serial. Lang mixed both these elements plus his own obsessions to make a silent masterpiece. The movie is broken up into two halves, part one THE GREAT GAMBLER, and part two INFERNO. Both movies have a massive scope with a down to earth true crime style with some outlandish elements of the supernatural.
Dr. Mabuse is one of the founding fathers of the super villain that would become a stable of spy films and comic books. The movie also spawned a huge movie franchise in Germany with the character changing to match the style of the 1960’s. Here Dr. Mabuse is a larger than life character with plenty of rage and bipolar emotion breakdowns. His disguises are even more insane, with some being truly hilarious, but this fits in the melodramatic nature of the movie. Mabuse’s influence can be felt in the James Bond franchise as well with its huge locations, gambling dens, and battle of wits at the poker table.
DR. MABUSE THE GAMBLER shows Fritz Lang’s mastery of action scenes, with a show stopping opening train heist followed by a huge attack on the stock market. Both mix action thrills with some pretty unique nightmare imagery. Lang also loves the seedy underbelly of the city, with the film’s many surreal card games, including one in a modern gambling den with robotic model cars and trains. To add to the supernatural themes, we even get a truly creepy séance scene. The movie also balances the near 4 hour run time with a plenty of subplots and ends with a massive shoot out that Alfred Hitchcock would borrow inspiration from in his 1934 classic THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. For suck a long movie, DR. MABUSE never seems boring. It’s a movie that I constantly find new things in to love. It truly is a wonderful blue print for the thrillers to come.
Audio/ Video (4.5/5)
Both parts of the movie have the original German version with intertitles in German with English subtitles. The soundtrack is a new stereo mix, and it sounds divine. Some sections of the film are louder than others, but the movie is never over bearing.
DR. MABUSE THE GAMBLER has a new 1080p HD transfer from the most complete version of the film. The new restoration looks pretty impressive, but not perfect. Most of the film has light to cloudy film grain. With this being the most complete version, there’s whole new sections of the movie that haven’t been kept in the best of conditions. Black levels are sharp and well detailed. The grays are slightly blurred at random points of the movie, but overall look fantastic for a movie of this vintage.
All the Extras are on Disc 2. The story of Dr. Mabuse is a three-part documentary covering all the major aspects of the films. The segments are Music of Mabuse, Norbert Jacques, and Mabuse’s Motives. The segments are filled with information and interview footage. For anyone curious about the legacy of Dr. Mabuse, will have a blast with these extras.
DR. MABUSE THE GAMBLER is a silent classic that is a must see for anyone interested in the ongoing history of action thrillers or classic pulp fiction buffs. Kino’s release of the movie is truly a thing of beauty with some minor issues. So, what are you waiting for? Go get a copy ASAP. Highly Recommended.