Dr. Mabuse--criminal genius, psychologist, hypnotist, counterfeiter, card shark, master of disguise, thief of state secrets and ruler of a sinister empire founded on selfishness, chicanery and murder--gained his first scre... more »en incarnation in this monumental film by Fritz Lang, one of cinema's greatest directors. Made in 1922 and subtitled "A Picture of Our Time," "Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler" is indeed a snapshot of a historical moment when Germany was likened to Sodom and Gomorrah. Now, both parts of Fritz Lang's memorable silent film--"Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler" and "Dr. Mabuse, King of Crime"--are now available on one package.« less
"Dr. Mabuse the Gambler is a must-have for any film scholar. It is one of Lang's best works, and it's hard to understand why this film is so little-known while the flashy but leaden Metropolis is considered a classic. Sergei Eisenstein was an admirer of Dr. Mabuse the Gambler, and supposedly he obtained a copy and studied its construction. I can only assume that the picture had a influence on other filmmakers around the world; it has a much more modern feel than any film I've seen from the early 20s. The pace is quick (at least in the first part), the cross-cutting between scenes is sophisticated, there is great attention to detail in the sets, and it rarely has the "stagy" feel that many silent films suffer from. If one had to point to one element that puts it ahead of its time, it would be its overall construction--the way the various shots and scenes are put together to create the story. Dr. Mabuse the Gambler creates a sense of both time and space; many things happen simultaneously in the movie-world, and the locales we see are not two-dimensional stage sets but rather three-dimensional spaces where we peer around corners and follow the characters from one room to the next. The only silent filmmaker I can think of who lavished so much attention on creating a credible world is Erich von Stroheim, though one could argue that that filmmaker should have taken a lesson from the economy of Lang's storytelling. In addition to its status as a landmark film, Dr. Mabuse the Gambler is also truly entertaining, particularly the first part. There are car and train chases, riotous gambling dens, memorable bit characters, and some great special effects. The basic story of good versus evil is compelling. Dr. Mabuse is one of the screen's greatest villains, a shrewd megalomaniac who seems to be tormented and driven by his overpowering desires. Rudolf Klein-Rogge is truly fantastic in the part. Mabuse revels insanely at his conquests and explodes with fury when he is thwarted. However, though he is extreme, he is no cartoon supervillain or two-dimensional monster; he is a fallible character, not evil itself but rather human evil, and this is what makes him exciting. The quality of the DVD is good to fair. I was thrilled with the clarity and felt that Image had done a superb job, but those who expect every title on DVD to be as crystal-clear as a movie that was released last year will be disappointed. This is not a perfectly restored copy; there are little imperfections in the film, from scratches to missing frames. There are even some very minor shots missing--for example, the very first shot of the seance scene shows the circle of hands from above, and this is missing from the DVD version. However, this is the most extreme case that I noted. In all cases the missing scraps do not affect the film as a whole; it is just that there are moments where you might think that Lang had a poor sense of continuity (and this is not the case!). Another oddity about the copy is that at least one of the shots differs slightly from that on a copy I have on videotape. There is a scene on the DVD where von Wenk is speaking to Carozza in the prison, and the shot shows all of the two characters. On the videotape I have, the shot is a close-up from a slightly different angle. I have had the same experience with another film, The Last Laugh. On two different videotapes the same shot differs slightly. All this being said, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this DVD. One must take into account that the film is from 1922 and is not very well-known. It is not a beloved classic that someone is going to lavish a small fortune into restoring to perfection. Note too that this is a movie that was not previously available on any format, period. There was one mail-order company that offered a home-made version on video, but the quality was poor at best and unwatchable at worst. It was like trying to watch the movie through a bowl of soup. Of particular note is that on the new DVD the film image has been shrunk so that it does not fill all of the available space of the television. This is because the aspect ratio of silent films was more square than the familiar 1:33 to 1 of the television set; sometimes leading to the tops of heads being cropped out when silents are transferred to video. This problem is solved on the DVD of Mabuse. And, of course, the DVD shows the movie at the correct speed. I totally disagree with the reviewer who said that it seemed speeded-up. Some of the chase scenes seem a little faster than normal speed, but I think that this was a device of Lang's rather than an imperfection of the DVD. There is also a commentary by a Mabuse scholar which, judging from the little I heard, is very well-informed. As a side note, Fritz Lang's sequel to Mabuse, 1933's The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (the original German version is available only on video), is also very entertaining, and it features Lohmann, the detective from M! However, The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse from the sixties (Lang's last film, I believe) is unfortunately quite forgettable and I cannot recommend it."
For And Against
Mr. S. G. Brown | Horsham, UK | 06/18/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As of June 2004 you need to wait and think before you buy this DVD. In it's favour it has a fantastic commentary by David Kalat. Against it, it's not a complete version. It WAS the most complete available, but now a region 2 release by Eureka contains the whole film, complete and restored."
Fritz Lang's TRUE Silent Masterpiece.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 07/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes METROPOLIS is the movie that everybody knows and while it is a highly influential work of world cinema, for my money Fritz Lang's true masterpiece is DR. MABUSE, THE GAMBLER especially when seen in this new authorized edition from Kino which runs 270 minutes. That's 57 minutes longer than the previous Image release which was the standard bearer up until now. There is so much I could say about this release but I will do my best to try and be concise. All of the elements that make Fritz Lang's movies what they are are on display here. The set design is truly astonishing not only for how it looks but for how it complements the action that is going on in front of it. The cinematography by Carl Hoffmann is fabulous especially when seen in a proper restoration like the one here. The editing is first rate as it highlights the dramatic action and the characters throughout the film. The characters are also fascinating to watch and there are so many of them. In many ways DR MABUSE plays like a silent version of Quentin Tarrentino's PULP FICTION (the source material IS pulp fiction) which leads me to what for me is the real strength of the picture and that is the screenplay by Thea von Harbou. The principal themes of guilt, intimidation and redemption which occur throught Lang's work are fully displayed here for the first time. Although they are often pointed out as the biggest weakness in his pictures I think just the opposite. Von Harbou's screenplays are grounded in silent film storytelling which makes them appear simplistic but like a fairy tale or other allegorical work there is a lot more when you look below the surface. It is rather telling after Lang left her and Germany that the principal themes of her scenarios crop up again and again in his work from LILIOM to SCARLET STREET to HOUSE BY THE RIVER. Rounding out the film are the vivid performances of Rudolf Klein-Rogge (Harbou's ex-husband and Rotwang in METROPOLIS) as Dr Mabuse, Bernhard Goetzke (DESTINY) as von Wenk, Alfred Abel (METROPOLIS) as Count Told and especially Norwegian actress Aud Egede Nissen as the ill-fated Cara Carozza who is the heart and soul of the story. One unintended effect by Lang is that the film is now an incredible time capsule of 1920's Berlin and what the world of CABARET must have been like. Rounding out this double DVD set are background documentaries on the making and meaning of DR. MABUSE including a marvelous part with composer Aljoscha Zimmerman and how he created his new background score which is absolutely perfect. Any lover of movies silent or sound should have this release as an example of a top director at the peak of his powers and as a prime example of how a restoration of a classic film should be done."
A German silent cinema masterpiece in restored form
Stephen H. Wood | South San Francisco, CA | 08/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
Fritz Lang's brilliantly directed and designed DR. MABUSE: THE GAMBLER (1922, Germany) is one of the crowning achievements of the German silent cinema from the decade following World War One. And Kino Video in Manhattan has given it a magnificent restoration that runs a full four-and-a-half hours. The print is beautiful, way longer than previous versions on home video, and with an evocatively harsh piano and violin score by Aljoscha Zimmermann and ensemble.
Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) is the archetype of all master criminals in a century of espionage movies, from James Bond to Alfred Hitchcock. He is a master of many disguises and is forever masterminding all means of terrorism in early 1920's Berlin. In this respect, DR. MABUSE: THE GAMBLER is very timely and contemporary.
In a movie that is also a commentary on 1920's Germany living, Mabuse works out of (or frequents) a cabaret with a gambling table that vanishes quickly in case of a police raid, and that offers cocaine for the mere asking. One wonders whether the cast and crew of Bob Fosse's CABARET (1972) saw this movie. Thea von Harbou's adaptation of Norbert Jacques' novel keeps the action moving quickly, despite the mammoth length. Something is always blowing up, and Mabuse is forever in another disguise to elude the police.
Actually, the 270 minute length is an asset because continuity holes have been filled in. We have two separate movies with an intermission for easy two night viewing on home video. (The intermission is at the two-and-a-half hour mark) The cinematography is by Carl Hoffmann, while the wondrous art direction is by Otto Hunte and Carl Stahl-Urach. Other cast members include METROPOLIS' Alfred Abel, Bernardt Goetzke, Aud Egede Nissen, and Paul Richter.
DR. MABUSE: THE GAMBLER is the grandfather of all espionage movies and cannot be recommended highly enough to fans of this genre. In its Kino Video restoration (which actually is a Berlin-Munich-Moscow restoration with Kino as American distributor), the movie is a stupendous achievement even by today's achievements. If you like it, then check out Kino's impeccable restorations of such other Lang silent restorations as DIE NIEBULENGEN (1924), METROPOLIS (1927), and SPIES (1928). At (800) 562-3330 or Amazon.com, they are the definitive source for Lang silents.
A timeless classic
Mark Young | Sydney Australia | 10/20/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am became interested in this film largely because of its director Fritz Lang. I had always enjoyed Metropolis (I now own the Kino release which is nothing short of breath taking in the quality). I began to read about the evil doctor and I was hooked by the concept of the narrative. So dark and given its timing so right in the context of a Weimar Germany.
I must admit that slient films require the viewer to see the film from a different context as compared to modern cinema. However, if one makes that adjustment the rewards are worth it.Many of the other reviews do an excellent job of discussing the plot and the like so in the context I will not go into any detail other than to say it may well in total be a 4 hour experience but it DOES NOT feel like it. This is one of my favourite pieces of cinema. I think much of garbage coming out of Hollywood could learn much from a thriller such as this.David Kalat's narration is fantastic, and so are the other Mabuse films he has reviewed. Like all great teachers you never feel as if you are being educated but being entertained.Bravo on the DVD and Bravo to David."