The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933 – Fritz Lang)

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Title: The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
Year: 1933
Runtime: 122 min
Director: Fritz Lang
Writer: Norbert Jacques (characters), Fritz Lang, Thea von Harbou
Actors: Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Gustav Diessl, Rudolf Schündler, Oskar Höcker
Plot: ‘The Testament of Dr. Mabuse’ is Lang’s 1932 expressionist sequel to ‘Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler’ (1922). In it, Mabuse, the narcissistic proto-fascist arch criminal entrepreneur with a hypnotic power over the gullible who sought to dominate the world, is now a ravaged wraith-like lunatic in an insane asylum (not unlike the East Wing of today’s White House). Somehow he continues to run his criminal network (a thinly-disguised Nazi Party) to blackmail, subvert, kill and steal, set fire to chemical factories, destroy crops, poison water supplies and minds, and project his own insanity onto the German public, creating a climate of fear, uncertainty and terror that will bring the country down around its ears. Lang attended one of Hitler’s ‘Make Germany great again’ rallies in 1932 and witnessed the mass hypnosis of the Führer’s followers first-hand. It’s fascinating that the script – largely Lang’s own work, unlike previous collaborations with his then wife, Thea von Harbou, who became a Nazi sympathiser – would describe Mabuse as an Übermensch, and have him scribbling these Mein Kampf-like ravings from his prison cell. The hypnotised Professor Baum is subsequently driven insane by Mabuse’s influence, an insanity used to symbolise the flakeyness of Nazi Party supporters and how human frailty — following the orders, unquestioningly, of a man behind a curtain — gives fascism room to grow. Baum is clearly obsessed with Mabuse, constantly lecturing the audience on the magnificence of the latter’s mind, telling police inspector Lohmann in one scene how Mabuse, who has just died, would have used his mind to completely tear down society. Later, alone in his office, Baum becomes aware of Mabuse’s spectre inviting him to join his “endless empire of crime” and entering his body, the literal spirit of “Hitler” taking over the body of a German ‘everyman’ and using him for his nefarious criminal plans. In 1943 Lang wrote that the film was designed to show Hitler’s terror methods as “a parable, with the slogans and beliefs of the Third Reich placed in the mouths of criminals. … an allegory to illustrate Hitler's strategy of tension . . . . I hoped to expose the masked Nazi theory of the necessity to deliberately destroy everything that is precious to people. Then, when everything collapsed and people were thrown into utter despair, they would look for 'help' in the new order."

IMDB Rating: 7.9
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