Doktor Mabuse Der Spieler; Das Testament Des Dr. Mabuse - Film (Movie) Plot and Review

Director: Fritz Lang


(Dr. Mabuse the Gambler)

Germany, 1922

Production: Uco-Film Studios; black and white, 35mm; silent; length: Part I ( Der grosse Spieler—Ein Bild der Zeit ) originally 3496 meters, Part II ( Inferno—Ein Spiel von Menschen unserer Zeit ) 2560 meters. Released 17 April 1922 (Part I) and 26 May 1922 (Part II). Filmed 1921–22. Part I in 8 weeks and Part II in 9 weeks; in Uco-Film studios in Berlin.

Screenplay: Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou, from a novel by Norbert Jacques published in Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung; photography: Carl Hoffman; art directors: Carl Stahl Urach (died during production), Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, and Karl Vollbrecht; costume designer: Vally Reinecke.

Cast: Rudolph Klein-Rogge ( Dr. Mabuse ); Aud Egede Nissen ( Cara Carezza, the dancer ); Gertrude Welcker ( Countess Told ); Alfred Abel ( Count Told ); Bernhard Goetzke ( Detective von Wenck ); Paul Richter ( Edgar Hull ); Robert Forster-Larringa ( Dr. Mabuse's servant ); Hans Adalbert Schlettow ( Georg, the chauffeur ); Georg John ( Pesche ); Karl Huszar ( Hawasch, manager of the counterfeiting factory ); Grete Berger ( Fine, Mabuse's servant ); Julius Falkenstein

Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse
Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse
( Karsten, Wenck's friend ); Lydia Potechina ( Russian woman ); Julius E. Herrman ( Schramm, the proprietor ); Karl Platen ( Told's servant ); Anita Berber ( Dancer ); Paul Biensfeldt ( Man with the pistol ); Edgar Pauly ( Fat Man ); Lil Dagover.



Rotha, Paul, The Film Till Now , London, 1930.

Weinberg, Herman G., An Index to the Creative Work of Fritz Lang , London, 1946.

Kracauer, Siegfried, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film , Princeton, 1947.

Eisenstein, Sergei, Film Form , New York, 1949.

Courtade, Francis, Fritz Lang , Paris, 1963.

Moullet, Luc, Fritz Lang , Paris, 1963.

Eibel, Alfred, editor, Fritz Lang , Paris, 1964.

Jensen, Paul M., The Cinema of Fritz Lang , New York, 1969.

Eisner, Lotte, The Haunted Screen , Berkeley, 1969.

Johnston, Claire, Fritz Lang , London, 1969.

Manvell, Roger, and Heinrich Fraenkel, The German Cinema , New York, 1971.

Henry, Michael, Le Cinéma expressioniste allemand , Paris, 1971.

Grafe, Frieda, Enno Patalas, and Hans Helmut Prinzler, Fritz Lang , Munich, 1976.

Eisner, Lotte, Fritz Lang , London, 1977.

Armour, Robert, Fritz Lang , Boston, 1978.

Ott, Frederick W., The Films of Fritz Lang , Secaucus, New Jersey, 1979.

Jenkins, Stephen, editor, Fritz Lang: The Image and the Look , London, 1979.

Kaplan, E. Ann, Fritz Lang: A Guide to References and Resources , Boston, 1981.

Maibohm, Ludwig, Fritz Lang: Seine Filme—Sein Leben , Munich, 1981.

DĂĽrrenmatt, Dieter, Fritz Lang: Leben und Werk , Basel, 1982.

Bronner, S. E., and D. Kellner, Passion and Rebellion: The Expressionist Heritage , London, 1983.

Schnauber, Cornelius, Fritz Lang in Hollywood , Wein, 1986.

Jacques, Norbert, Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler: Roman, Film, Dokumente , St. Ingbert, 1987.

Humphries, Reynold, Fritz Lang: Genre and Representation in His American Films , Baltimore, 1989.

McGilligan, Patrick, Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast , New York, 1997.

Phillips, Gene D., Exiles in Hollywood: Major European Film Directors in America , London, 1998.


Berliner Tageblatt , 30 April 1922.

Variety (New York), 2 June 1922.

Ihering, Herbert, in Berliner Börsen-Courier , 11 June 1922; reprinted in Von Reinharft bis Brecht , East Berlin, 1958.

Lang, Fritz, "Kitsch: Sensation-Kultur und Film," in Das Kulturfilmbuch , edited by E. Beyfuss and P. Kossowsky, Berlin, 1924.

New York Times , 10 August 1927.

Hooper, Trask C., in New York Times , 20 May 1928.

Goetz, Fritz, in New York Times , 9 August 1928.

Eisner, Lotte, "Notes sur le style de Fritz Lang," in Revue de Cinéma (Paris), 1 February 1947.

Wilson, Harry, "The Genius of Fritz Lang," in Film Quarterly (London), Summer 1947.

Gesek, Ludwig, "Fritz Lang: Suggestion und Stimmung," in Gestalter der Filmkunst von Asta Nielsen bis Walt Disney , Vienna, 1948.

Lang, Fritz, in Penguin Film Review (London), vol. 5, 1948.

Franju, Georges, "Le Style de Fritz Lang," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), November 1959.

Everschor, Franz, in Film-Dienst (Dusseldorf), 5 April 1961.

Taylor, John Russell, "The Nine Lives of Dr. Mabuse," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1961.

Gregor, Ulrich, and Enno Patalas, "Deutschland: Expressionismus und neue Sachlichkeit," in Geschichte des Films , GĂĽtersloh, 1962.

Shivas, Mark, "Fritz Lang Talks about Dr. Mabuse," in Movie (London), November 1962.

Berg, Gretchen, editor, "La Nuit viennoise: Une Confession de Fritz Lang," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), August 1965.

Freund, Rudolf, "Zwischen Kunst und Kolportage," in Filmspiegel (East Berlin), 1 December 1965.

Legrand, GĂ©rard, "Nouvelles notes pour un Ă©loge de Fritz Lang," in Positif (Paris), April 1968.

Toeplitz, J., in Kino (Warsaw), March 1972.

Burch, Noël, "De Mabuse a M: Le Travail de Fritz Lang," in Revue d'Esthétique (Paris), 1973.

Sayre, Nora, in New York Times , 15 October 1973.

Milne, Tom, in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), May 1974.

Boost, C., "Fritz Lang," in Skoop (Amsterdam), February 1975.

Blumenberg, Hans, "Kino der Angst," in Die Zeit (Hamburg), 13 September 1976.

Jubak, J., "Lang and Parole: Character and Narrative in Doktor Mabuse, der Spieler," in Film Criticism (Edinboro, Pennsylvania), no. 1, 1979.

Fischer, Lucy, "Dr. Mabuse and Mr. Lang," in Wide Angle (Athens, Ohio), Winter 1980.

Kane, P., "Revoir Mabuse," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), March 1980.

Burch, Noël, "Notes on Fritz Lang's First Mabuse," in Ciné-Tracts (Montreal), Spring 1981.

Johnston, S., in Films and Filming (London), July 1982.

Bergstrom, J., "Expressionism and Mabuse," in Iris (Iowa City), Autumn 1992.

Brandlmeier, T., "Mabuse komplett," in EPD Film (Frankfurt), April 1995.

Elsaesser, Thomas, "Fritz Lang: The Illusion of Mastery (German Film Director)," in Sight and Sound (London), vol. 10, no. 1, January 2000.


(The Last Will of Dr. Mabuse)

Germany, 1933

Production: Nero-Film A.G. Studios; black and white, 35mm; running time: about 122 minutes; length 3334 meters. Released 5 December 1933 in Vienna, a French version (95 minutes) was shot simultaneously with the same technical crew and released April 1933 in Paris. Filmed in 10 weeks in 1932 in Nero-Film A.G. studios in Berlin.

Producer: Seymour Nebenzal; screenplay: Thea von Harbou and Fritz Lang, from the characters in a novel by Norbert Jacques; photography: Fritz Arno Wagner and Karl Vass; art directors: Karl Vollbrecht and Emil Hasler; music: Hans Erdmann.

Cast: Rudolph Klein-Rogge ( Dr. Mabuse ); Oskar Beregi ( Dr. Baum ); Karl Meixner ( Landlord ); Theodor Loos ( Dr. Kramm, assistant to Baum ); Otto Wernicke ( Detective Lohmann ); Klaus Pohl ( Müller, Lohmann's assistant ); Wera Liessem ( Lilli ); Gustav Diessl ( Thomas Kent ); Camilla Spira ( Jewel-Anna ); Rudolf Schündler ( Hardy ); Theo Lingen ( Hardy's friend ); Paul Oskar Höcker ( Bredow ); Paul Henckels ( Lithographer ); Georg John ( Baum's servant ); Ludwig Stössel ( Worker ); Hadrian M. Netto ( Nicolai Grigoriew ); Paul Bernd ( Blackmailer ); Henry Pless ( Dunce ); A. E. Licho ( Dr. Hauser ); Karl Platen, Anna Goltz, and Heinrich Gretler ( Sanitarium Assistants ); Gerhard Bienart, Paul Bernd, Ernst Ludwig, Klaus Pohl, and Paul Rehkopf ( Detectives ).



Variety (New York), 9 May 1933.

Rotha, Paul, in Cinema Quarterly (London), Autumn 1934.

Crowther, Bosley, in New York Times , 20 March 1943.

Romano, Sergio, in Cinema (Rome), 10 November 1948.

"One Facet of Lang's Art Prophetic of Hitlerism," in Herald Tribune (New York), 21 March 1949.

Ruppert, Martin, in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , 13 September 1951.

G.J., in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), January 1954.

Kipfmuller, Erwin, "Gespräch mit Fritz Lang," in Film (Munich), December 1956.

Mardore, Michel, "Le Diabolique Docteur Mabuse," in Cinéma (Paris), August-September 1961.

Rhode, Eric, "Fritz Lang (The German Period, 1919–1933)," in Tower of Babel , London, 1966.

New York Times , 6 December 1973.

Greenspun, Roger, in Film Comment (New York), March-April 1973.

William, Paul, in Village Voice (New York), 12 September 1974.

Phillips, Gene D., "Fritz Lang Gives His Last Interview," in Village Voice (New York), 16 August 1976.

Lang, Fritz, "On Dr. Mabuse," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), April 1978.

Audibert, L., in Cinématographe (Paris), December 1979.

Cluny, C. M., in Cinéma (Paris), January 1980.

Legrand, GĂ©rard, "Le Nom de l'innommable," in Positif (Paris), March 1980.

Werner, G., "Fritz Lang and Goebbels: Myth and Facts," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), no. 3, 1990.

Lenne, Gérard, "Le testament du Dr Mabuse: les inventions de Lang," in Mensuel du Cinéma , no. 10, October 1993.

Brandlmeier, T., "Mabuse komplett," in EPD Film (Frankfurt), April 1995.

Also see list of publications following the Doktor Mabuse, Der Spieler credits.

* * *

The popular novelist Thea von Harbou began her unbroken 12-year scripting association with Fritz Lang in 1920. Divorcing the actor Rudolf Klein-Rogge, she married Lang in 1924, working with him until 1932 when they separated and subsequently divorced after Lang's hasty departure from Germany. Lang had already gained considerable success as the writer-director of Die Spinnen. In Thea von Harbou, he found an ideal writing partner to develop the psychological potentiality of a psychotic genius and master-criminal, Dr. Mabuse. Mabuse became the protagonist in Lang's two celebrated films of 1922 and 1933.

Dr. Mabuse the Gambler , Part I, began by showing Mabuse making a fortune on the stock market and using hypnotism to win $50,000 from Edgar Hull, whom Mabuse finally murders after inducing his own exotic mistress, the dancer Cara Carezza, to seduce him. He induces Cara to commit suicide when she is faced with arrest. Opposed to Mabuse is von Wenck, the public prosecutor; in Part II Wenck manages to resist Mabuse's attempts to hypnotise him and traces the criminal to his head-quarters, a building placed under siege by the police. When arrested Mabuse goes insane. Reviving the character of Mabuse 10 years later in The Last Will of Dr. Mabuse Lang and Harbou show how the insane Mabuse uses his hypnotic powers to induce Dr. Baum, director of the asylum where he is being held, to maintain his criminal activities outside and, indeed, on Mabuse's death to accept that he is the reincarnation of the mad doctor. Commissioner Lehmann (the dedicated police superintendent Lang had introduced in M ), exposes Baum, who finally goes mad after the model of Mabuse and inhabits the criminal's original cell. Mabuse was revived, according to Lang, as a projection of Hitler: "I put all the Nazi slogans into the mouth of the ghost of the criminal," he has stated. In 1933 Goebbels banned both Mabuse films. "Out of the Mabuses," Lang wrote later when The Last Will of Dr. Mabuse was salvaged and released in America in 1943, "came the Heydrichs, the Himmlers and the Hitlers." He added, "This film was made as an allegory to show Hitler's processes of terrorism."

Lang always insisted that the original character of Mabuse had contemporary significance even in 1922. He seems to represent an arch criminal of that period of galloping inflation that destroyed the German currency, and with it German social morale. According to Lotte Eisner, Lang's friend and biographer, the Berlin critics accepted his reference to the times without demur. Writing of the period, Lang himself said, "The First World War brought changes. In Europe, an entire generation of intellectuals embraced despair; young people, myself among them, made a fetish of tragedy." This helps to account for the fact that insanity in various forms became a recurrent theme in German cinema of the 1920s. Lang regarded his film not merely as a box-office thriller but as a document of the time, and Siegfried Kracauer terms Mabuse, "a contemporary tyrant," a symbol of mad, anti-social domination, combining a lust for absolute tyranny with the desire to effect social chaos. Like Caligari before him, he is insane and makes continual use of hypnosis to overcome his victims: an attempt is even made to hypnotise the audience. Lang indeed was concerned to give his film a contemporary psychological touch; Mabuse's thirst for power and his Protean manifestations in a ceaseless flow of disguises make him seem ever-present and ever-active in society. Eric Rhode, writing in Tower of Babel (1966), sees the original film and the character of Mabuse as a myth of its time reflecting "not only the confusion and anxieties of the Weimar Republic," but also Oswald Spengler's romantic, fatalistic thesis in his bestseller, The Decline of the West (1918), in which he claimed that city-bound man is doomed through his power-lust for money. This was relevant not only to Lang's Mabuse but to his most spectacular work of the 1920s, Metropolis. In Mabuse his primary settings are gambling dens, depraved nightclubs, and the Stock Exchange. Mabuse is a vampire gambler and cheat extraordinary, operating against society on a universal scale, typified here by such characters as the wealthy, degenerate Count and Countess Told. As played by Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Mabuse has all the appearance of an actor-like, romantic genius—the penetrating eyes and the flowing mane of hair swept back from a towering brow.

Lang, whose father was a Viennese architect and whose training had been in art, had a strongly developed visual and structural eye. Paul Rotha, himself trained as an artist, admits that Mabuse "was far ahead of its time in décor." He writes of "the perfection of camera work and lighting effects" in Lang's films. Lang employed the irising device to dramatic effect, double, triple and quadruple exposures, and chiaroscuro lighting: for visual effect, Eric Rhode suggests the scene when the "mad count wanders with a candelabrum through his twilit mansion." Lang, he points out, "favours middle or long distance shots, and a rim lighting that gives his characters both dimension and solidity. In Dr. Mabuse rooms tend to be ample, while streets are so narrow that cars jam and bump into each other." Sergei Eisenstein, who had assisted Esther Shub in re-editing Dr. Mabuse for Russian audiences, commented on "the mystic criminal reaching out towards us from our screens showing us a future as an unrelieved night crowded with sinister shadows."

Lang was to make one further film featuring Mabuse in 1960, working again in Germany. Though adroitly made, The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse , a somewhat pale revival of Mabuse in the form of a madman who believes himself the reincarnation of the dead criminal but turns out to be Mabuse's son, seemed out of place by the 1960s.

—Roger Manvell

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