Charles S. Tashiro | Agoura Hills, CA USA | 09/28/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I bought THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE in the mistaken belief that I was getting a copy of Fritz Lang's 1933 film of the same name. I was at first disappointed to realize that the DVD provides the early 1960s remake. (The disc also includes a copy of the 1933 American cut of Lang's film, but I haven't watched it. The complications of the Mabuse series are way too convoluted to go into here, but let's just say that the 1933 American cut is not what I was expecting either.) Since I had never seen the remake, I decided to give it a chance, and I'm glad I did. Smart, stylish, sardonic, THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE obviously owes a debt to Lang's original. In feel, though, it is closer to Michael Curtiz's early Warners horror films, like MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM or DOCTOR X, crossed with a glib episode of THE AVENGERS and the inventive energy of Hammer Studios at their best. I actually prefer it to Lang's version.From the first shot, there are obvious bows to the Central European Expressionist tradition from which both Lang and Curtiz emerged: heavy, crazy shadows, canted camera angles, huge close-ups on the actors, an acrid, ironic score, more than a touch of sadism at the edges. If it stopped there, the film wouldn't be much more than an entertaining pastiche. What gives it distinction is its jaunty, fast-moving wit, embodied particularly in Charles Régnier's movie-stealing performance as Mortimer, head of Mabuse's gang. (After stopping and robbing a gold-laden security van, for example, Mortimer gives the guards bus fare back to town. "After all," he says walking away, "we aren't inhuman." Then when the police are calculating the extent of the haul, they remember to subtract the amount of the bus fare.) The wit and pace only begin to flag in the concluding sequences, with too many people running around an insane asylum trying to bring the story to an end. Those were some of the weaker moments in Lang's film, too, so at most these people have failed to improve on the original. Lang enthusiasts will be able to enjoy the playful filigree these filmmakers have woven around his story. Low-budget film lovers will enjoy TESTAMENT's fast paced action. And anyone simply interested in a good hour and a half of smart fun will not be disappointed."
Testament of Dr. Mabuse
J. Fester | Chicago, IL USA | 07/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The DVD release of this film is highly recommended for both fans and those uninitiated to the world of Dr. Mabuse. If one could imagine some parallel universe where there were a series of films detailing the adventures of Blofeld and SPECTRE, and where James Bond was a mere supporting character, that would be the beginning of some of the flavor of the Dr. Mabuse films produced in the sixties. To add to the recipe, one would have to throw in expressionist black and white photography, convoluted plotting, double-and-triple identities, and a unique bravura style that was common in German commercial cinema at the time. If you recall watching these films on television as well as the many German adaptations of Edgar Wallace thrillers, you'll view this disc with fondness. Bond fans will find it amusing to watch Gert Frobe on the right side of the law in this and two other Mabuse films. The DVD has excellent production values, considering this film has only been available previously on duped copies from 16mm. The picture quality is very good, and the bonuses of trailers, stills, etc are plentiful. Of course, there is even a second feature as a bonus...the Americanized version of Fritz Lang's original 1932 version of this film. There is a very well-written essay in the accompanying booklet by David Kalat that goes a long way to explaining the peculiar pull these films have on viewers. All in all, an excellent package at an excellent price. Also highly recommended is the companion release "The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse"."
It ain't Fritz Lang, but still pretty good
Toshifumi Fujiwara | Tokyo, Japan | 07/30/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The remake of Fritz Lang's 1932 masterpiece is not as good as the original as a work of art and a terryfying alegorical vison of the world we live in, but actually perhaps more enjoyable as an entertainment movie. Lang, from his other crime movie masterpiece M, started to avoid the spectacular in his films as much as possible, and prefered a cold observing eye almost without giving any chance to the audience to sentimrntaly identify him or herself in the movie chracter. This remake does not take such an approach, and conveys the story with excitment and surprises, and vulgarity in a good sense, instead of Lang's cold observing inteligence and classical poetry. An odd but interesting bonus to this DVD is the mutilated American release of Lang's 1932 original. Cutted down to a mere 75 minute length, the power of Lang's masterful control of the images, of every each frame of his film is still there, so is the strong alegorical point of view this film takes to pre-war Germany at the point of the rise in power of the real-life Mabuse Adolf Hitler. In a way, it is the condenced version, and quite fun to watch. But we also urge the studio to release the original TESTAMENT OF DR.MABUSE on DVD."