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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

DR. MABUSE (1922) - a 2nd WriteUp


Even the title is unforgettable in Fritz Lang’s epic thriller about Weimar Berlin’s criminal mastermind. It runs a staggering (and almost complete) 270 minutes in KINO’s superb 2-disc set (taken from a German restoration). Yet, its two parts (The Gambler & Inferno) all but fly by, greatly helped by the driving, jazz-inflected score from Aljoscha Zimmerman. Rudolph Klein-Rogge (the mad inventor/scientist from Lang’s METROPOLIS/26) is Dr. Mabuse, a master of disguise who controls Berlin’s underworld with a small gang of eccentric henchmen, a loyal femme fatale, a gaggle of blind counterfeiters & the sheer force of his will. (Echoes of Nazis & Nietzsche are around every corner.) One cinematic treat follows another, a climax every two reels, as the city’s Chief Prosecutor tries to keep up with an unnerving, unending series of crimes: train robberies, kidnapping, gambling dens, stock market manipulations, illegal nightclubs, drug sales, rubouts, gassing, mass hypnosis. Lang’s control is already awe-inspiring and the characterizations, pace & sophisticated use of style & design are the stuff of a collector’s dreams. If only all masterpieces were so much fun. And in such good physical shape! Each Part is neatly divided into multiple acts, so it’s easy to watch this as a serial. But why not make a marathon of it? Just follow the inter-title that tells you to ‘Eat some cocaine, you weakling!’ That should keep you going!

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