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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lang's Final Masterpiece on DVD!
I think I was 11 years old when I first saw this film and now, 30 years later, it remains one of the most haunting cinematic experiences I've ever had. Some movies - like great art in any form - just don't seem to age. Everything one could wish for in a first-class thriller is here: complex plot and characters, fast-paced action, nail-biting suspense, brilliant...
Published on June 26, 2004 by Anders Borelius

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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is not the movie advertised. Do not rent it from Amazon.
This movie is the 1950's English dubbed version, not the original 1930's German language version described and sold as a DVD. This is a terrible version of a great film. Don't rent it here, as you will not be able to get your money back after you realize you have been duped!
Published 14 months ago by Garrison Means


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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lang's Final Masterpiece on DVD!, June 26, 2004
By 
This review is from: The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
I think I was 11 years old when I first saw this film and now, 30 years later, it remains one of the most haunting cinematic experiences I've ever had. Some movies - like great art in any form - just don't seem to age. Everything one could wish for in a first-class thriller is here: complex plot and characters, fast-paced action, nail-biting suspense, brilliant photography, editing and direction together with some of the most suggestive scenes ever shown on the silver screen. The actors are good too (with a few minor exceptions), especially Otto Wernicke (reprising his role in "M") as Inspector Lohmann - the antithesis of the brutal and sadistic german officer/policeman so frequent in mainstream cinema. You have to go to Alfred Hitchcock's best works to find anything that surpasses this film.
Made during the final chaotic months of the Weimar Republic by master director Fritz Lang ("Metropolis", "M") the movie was banned when the Nazis came to power in early 1933; it was to be Lang's last work before leaving Germany. He directed a string of films in Hollywood and though some of them were quite good he never managed to reach the heights of filmmaking he had done during his German period, mainly because the American studio system didn't give him the artistic freedom he had previously enjoyed.
The plot revolves around the mysterious Dr. Mabuse, a criminal mastermind invented by the German author Norbert Jacques and made famous by Lang's 1922 silent film "Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler". A decade later we find the notorious doctor locked away in an asylum. He hasn't spoken a word for ten years, instead he is writing his "testament", a detailed manual describing how to commit the most hideous crimes, crimes that serve no other purpose than to throw a law-abiding society into total chaos and anarchy. When the document starts to take concrete form in reality, Lohmann has to put the clues together in a most unusual and horrifying case...
Now Criterion Collection has released this classic in an excellent two-disc edition. The film is presented - for the first time - in it's original length and aspect ratio with restored image and sound. Picture quality is very good; I've only seen two DVD-releases of movies from this period with a better image ("42nd Street" and "The Ghoul"). The picture is sharp and clear, almost without any specks or grain. Sound quality is worse, unfortunately. While spoken lines are clear enough the sound-track suffers from background noice, which in a few scenes (not any of the important ones, thank God) is very disturbing. I don't consider this a major problem though; the film is too captivating for that. The language is German with optional English subtitles (easy to read).
On the first disc - together with the film - is an insightful audio commentary by film historian David Kalat. Some might find it a bit academic, but he provides interesting information about - among other things - Lang's storytelling techniques (parallels can be found today in movies like "Pulp Fiction" and "The Usual Suspects") and points out that the film's theme - once a metaphor for the Nazi movement rising in power - can just as easily be applied to the current international political situation, regarding terrorism. The second disc contains the complete French-language version made simultaneosly by Lang with French actors, a couple of interviews with Lang, actor Rudolf Sch?ndler and German Mabuse expert Michael Farin, production design drawings and a collection of memorabilia, press books, stills and posters.
Anyone even remotely interested in thrillers and/or movie history simply must see this film. Forget that it's German, forget that it's over 70 years old; "The testament of Dr. Mabuse" is a timeless proof of that you don't need a big budget and computorised special effects to create movie magic. With this edition Lang's final masterpiece will hopefully get the credit it deserves. If you're tired of overblown Hollywood productions with overpaid stars that (almost) never deliver what they promise, this one is for you. It's the grandmother ("M" being the grandfather) of all modern thrillers and still a hell of a lot better than most of them. Buy it!!!
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fritz Lang Masterpiece -- Deserves Greater Attention, January 19, 2005
By 
This review is from: The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
Don't be put off that it is more than 70 years old; don't be deterred because it is in German. "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse" can only be described as awesome -- in the traditional sense of the word. Many early sound motion pictures were talking plays. Fritz Lang, however, truly uses sound in all its aspects. For example, the very first scene creates tension by allowing us to hear only the clanking of a machine. We see people talking, but we cannot hear what they are saying, because they are drowned out by the machine. The viewer knows something is happening, but does not know what. Lang makes effective use of sound throughout. The visuals are amazing, too. We see what a room looks like when illuminated only by a gunshot. We see spectacular fires.

The story may be 70 years old, but it is as recent as today's headlines. Dr. Mabuse, now locked in a mental institution, directs the activities of a terror gang. The gangsters, who are ordinary criminals themselves, cannot understand the purpose of the crimes, which do not appear to be profitable. The point is: the crimes are committed simply to cause terror. Once the population is fully terrorized, the criminal empire can take over. The film was completed weeks after the Nazis took power and not surprisingly, Joseph Goebbels banned the film. Goebbels did allow it to be shown a few years later, after Otto Wernicke was filmed in a new introduction which claimed that the events of the film occured a few years before (i.e., in the Weimar era.) While the film's portrayal of a hypnotic leader can and did describe Adolf Hitler, it also describes hypnotic terrorist leaders today. This story is fresh.

The restoration is outstanding. Although this film is from the 1930s, there is no hissing or popping. The visuals are bright and sharp. Rudolf Klein Rogge, who portrays Dr. Mabuse, does not have much to say, but his whispers will chill you to the bone. This is a masterpiece.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Suspenseful Cinematic Landmark, June 16, 2004
By 
A Customer (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
Fritz Lang's Testament of Dr. Mabuse is a sequel to his Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922), however, in this film he uses Nazi motto's in the mouth of a mad scientist. Lang pushed the envelop as he directed this cinematic landmark that Joseph Goebels, Nazi Minister of Information, deemed dangerous for public order in Nazi Germany. Despite the Nazi's banning the film they recognized Lang's cinematic genius as they offered him a position as the head of German film. However, Lang recognized the danger and escaped from Germany shortly after the Nazi's banned Testament of Dr. Mabuse.
Testament of Dr. Mabuse begins with Berlin's police inspector Lohmann (Otto Wernicke), receiving a phone call from a certain Hofmeister that is suspiciously cut off with strange noise in the background. Lohmann's investigation leads to a mysterious disappearance of Hofmeister and more strange crimes begin to appear. Lohmann is flabbergasted over the new crime wave as new leads brings him to a mental institution where Dr. Mabuse has been committed for his insane crimes. However, Dr. Mabuse has been diagnosed as incapable of daily functioning since he has been attached to a writing pad for ten years where he has been writing incomprehensible gibberish. There seems to be something sinister that is working behind the curtain, but that is for Lohmann to discover.
The sound, cinematography, and special effects are jaw dropping considering when the film was shot as these aspects of film making, still to this day, enhance the alarm and horror that the audience experiences. For example, in the opening shot the camera pans across a dusty attic turned into an engineering workshop while the deafening mechanical sound induces frightening mental images illustrates Lang's ingenious directing skills. The visual special effects are also advanced as Lang displays an exploding barrel with convincing sound. This demonstrates Lang's understanding for the importance of sound in film as it is not only used for dialogue, but to elevate the cinematic experience. In the end Testament of Dr. Mabuse offers a remarkable cinematic experience that has earned it a spot in film history by being a political statement as well as an aesthetic example of cinema at its finest.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Lang masterwork!, November 8, 2006
By 
Anyechka (Rensselaer, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
The more I see of Fritz Lang's films, the more and more he grows in esteem for me. This film is no exception. While a sequel to the two-part 1922 film 'Dr. Mabuse: Der Spieler,' it could also be fully enjoyed and understood by one who has never seen the prior film (of quite massive length!), since apart from the recurring title character, it's entirely its own story, with an entirely new set of characters and an entirely new plot. It's not one of those sequels that's a continuation of the events and characters established in the first enstallment, even though it is nice to see the 1922 two-parter first, to have some background information on just who Mabuse is and the kind of trouble he's about to start unleashing again, not to mention just why he's ended up in a mental institution.

This is one of those films that just gets better and better with each repeated viewing, particularly since it seems to start in media res. One comes to have more and more of a full and complete understanding of who all of these characters are, why they're behaving this way, and just what is going on in the opening scenes, as well as some of the ensuing scenes that make more sense after having already seen the film a few times. And the film just gets better and better and faster-paced as it goes on. The basic plot, which has already been outlined by other reviewers, is that Dr. Mabuse, after having spent the past decade in a mental institution, has recently begun unleashing his dangerous plans for world domination, sabotage, and an empire of crime, but no one can figure out just what's going on, particularly since Mabuse dies rather early in the film. Even the criminals he's gotten to do his bidding don't really know just who the man behind the curtain is. And the one man who does know his name and what's going on, the disgraced former up-and-coming cop Hofmeister, is sent away to the same asylum himself and driven insane so that he won't be able to tell anyone, least of all his friend Lohmann, the police inspector. This is a classic crime thriller all of the way through, leaving the viewer constantly wondering what's going to happen next, just who is behind all of this criminal mayhem if Mabuse is dead, and if Lohmann can put an end to this reign of terror before it's too late.

The extras include a gallery of stills and memorabilia, production drawings, a 1964 interview with Fritz Lang (in which he's perpetuating some famous urban legends about himself, such as leaving Germany in the middle of the night with barely any money and never returning until just recently!), a short documentary on the life of Norbert Jacques, the novelist who created the Mabuse character, a 1984 interview with Rudolf Schündler (who plays Hardy), a comparison of key scenes in the original 1933 German version of the film, the somewhat altered French version released that same year, and the dubbed and rather edited American version released in 1952, an audio commentary, and the French-language version. Both the audio commentary and the comparison of the three versions are done by David Kalat, who did the *amazing* audio commentary for 'Dr. Mabuse: Der Spieler,' which was hands-down one of the best audio commentaries I've heard to date. His insights and information were just as wonderful in these two commentaries.

The French-language version comes from a print in less than pristine condition, although given how few copies of this cut are known to survive and that none of them are in great condition, it's just petty and oblivioius to be criticising it for that. This version in particular actually has 3 languages on it--the spoken French, the original Dutch subtitles, and the modern English subtitles in black boxes over the Dutch subtitles (which a number of times are clearly visible anyway). Although the editing on this one isn't as severe as on the 1952 American release, it does change some of the dialogue and axes away the Kent-Lilli subplot to almost nothing, so that the viewer who hasn't already seen the German original wouldn't really understand just what's going on between these two or what Kent's backstory is, just why he's trying to get away from Mabuse's clutches and doesn't want to be involved in crime anymore. The actors used in this version are also inferior to the ones in the original; the only repeat actors are Karl Meixner as Hofmeister (since he was bilingual and therefore able to act in French as well as in German) and of course Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Mabuse. Klein-Rogge's scant lines had to be dubbed, since he didn't speak French. The only actor who didn't seem like a pale imitation of the original was Thomy Bourdelle as Dr. Baum (he even looked like the original Dr. Baum). They were just fleshed-out so much better in the original, with more depth and personality, as opposed to the kind of buffoonish one-dimensional characters they're presented as here. I also thought the original Kent and Lilli were a much more handsome couple than the French Kent and Lilli. It's hard to believe that this was common practice in the early sound era and less expensive than dubbing or subtitling, actually reshooting the entire film with an entirely new cast or, sometimes, making the original cast memorise their lines phoenetically in another language like French or Spanish, in order to have a bigger market.

Lang did so much incredible work, both in the silent and sound era, and both in German and American cinema, that it's hard to narrow down his greatest and most-recommendable films apart from his masterpiece 'Metropolis.' This film, however, easily belongs in a Top 10 list of his best films, one that might inspire a casual viewer to become a big fan or to want to see much more.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Expressionistic Classic, May 31, 2000
This is one of the last of the great expressionist claasics from UFA, made right before the Nazis took over Germany and made freedom of expression a thing of the past. Dr. Mabuse, played by the astounding Rudolf-Klein Rogge, embarks on a campaign of crime that is designed to do nothing more than to cause the breakdown of society and to spread chaos -- Mabuse's underlings spout actual Nazi propaganda, so what exactly is being attacked here is quite obvious. The cinematography is stunning and the acting is superb, but the use of voice I find rather decreases the visual impact of the expressionistic genre. After this film was made, Lang, the director, was forced to flee for his life as the Nazis imposed total control over Germany and UFA became a propaganda tool. The subplot of a decent man forced into a life of crime by poverty may also be of interest of thos who might wonder how a man like Hitler could have gained so much power in the first place.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Testament to Fritz Lang's genius, October 24, 2012
Convention has it, that by the mid to late 20's, silent cinema had reached its zenith in storytelling style and artistry. Then sound came along, and overnight, movies became stagebound, static, with none of the flowing camera movements, and actors who had to stand or sit conveniently next to a vase of daffodils or a bush, wherein lay the microphone.. it arguably took decades for Hollywood to rediscover its style, once it found its voice. Compare that version of history to what was happening in Germany - or at least with Fritz Lang, who had demonstrated himself an artist of the silent screen, with his classics Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler, and of course The Complete Metropolis [Blu-ray]. And yet, here in only his second sound movie, the imaginative use of sound is both and surprising and enjoyable in its inventiveness.. the misdirection of the audience with sound, the inability to hear seemingly key conversations due to carefully constructed background noise, or indeed due to delicately woven silence, is seemingly the mark of a director who had mastered sound over a lifetime. Examples abound, but the hunt in the opening scenes, ending in a silent explosion, or the wonderful segue from ticking bomb to man tapping an egg in identical sound and rhythm, made this movie a treat for me.
But to revel in the sound is only one facet of this surprising movie. The plot, for example is for its time both complex and enigmatic. On one level it is about a hunt for a mastermind criminal. A mysterious figure is head of a network of counterfeiters, thieves and murderers, and his goal seems to be chaos, not profit. All the evidence points to Dr Mabuse, however he is in a mental asylum, secure and cut off from the world. And yet, somehow, he has extended his reach beyond mere body, to leave a legacy, a testament, if you will, after he is gone. It's not just a crime thriller then - there are genuine moments that enter a more mystical level. And then there are the politics.. the movies politics have long been debated.. was Lang really making a point, when he developed a maniacal leader, who could through ranting and persuasion by violence, use chaos and currency problems to overthrow the state? Certainly Goebbels seemed to think so, and the movie was banned by the Nazis, and Lang left for Europe.
And then of course there are those signature Lang visuals. I loved the moment for example, when we see a lady waiting in the gloom on a wonderful set of sweeping pure lines of art deco stairs, only for a light to come on, changing the image instantly. The scenes involving the spectre of Mabuse were groundbreaking effects for the time, and yet Lang knew exactly how to use them, without it dominating or distracting from the movie (although apparently later he regretted their inclusion). And Lang did know how to wring tension out of a scene through visuals as much as through the setup or the plot device. The stairway shootout, the room filling with water, the assassination in the car are all memorable set pieces.
This particular edition comes nicely restored, though not to the same level of perfection as Metropolis was restored, and a somewhat dry but nonetheless informative commentary, along with a nice little booklet which delves into the movie in surprising depth.
Of course this is a movie almost 80 years old, and so needless to say it has dated.. it's not often now that the speeding vehicles in a chase have to overtake a horse and cart. The acting styles certainly can seem overegged and histrionic compared to more modern style.. though Otto Wernicke's Kommissar Lohmann (The same character from Lang's previous movie, `M') is simply a wonderful creation. But despite the issues that come with age, thanks to Lang's unique talent, this is indeed a testament, a fitting tribute to remind us of the care and imagination that can go into making movies, without cgi, without huge budgets, and yet still create something both exciting and of artistic merit. Worth a shot, even if the thought of an octogenarian movie makes you nervous.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is not the movie advertised. Do not rent it from Amazon., October 30, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This movie is the 1950's English dubbed version, not the original 1930's German language version described and sold as a DVD. This is a terrible version of a great film. Don't rent it here, as you will not be able to get your money back after you realize you have been duped!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A horror/suspense classic, March 20, 2000
By A Customer
An avant garde film with a thick plot. Truely one of the first suspense films. Good quality for being so old. If you like old movies, mysteries, suspense films, or anything out of the norm then this is for you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Cinema, October 23, 2010
This review is from: The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
Director Fritz Lang's horrific crime thriller remains among his finest works. Only his second talkie, "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse" (1933) survives as a genre-bending masterpiece that showcases Lang's influential exploration of sight and sound - augmented by striking supernatural elements. Nearly 80 years later, the film has lost none of its spellbinding power. Criterion's excellent two-disc set includes the 121-minute German restoration and the rarely seen French-language version that Lang shot simultaneously with a different cast.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Abusing Mabuse is amusing, June 7, 2010
This review is from: The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
A great film that is been re-discovered and restored into respectability after having been thought lost for ever. What makes that film unacceptable in a way in Hitler's Germany was the fact that it could be seen and read like a metaphor of Hitler himself. A gambler and criminal of his time after the First World War, Mabuse actually lost his mind and became insane and was institutionalized, in a psychiatric hospital where is dies. But at the end of his life he uses his hypnotic power to rebuild a crime gang that officiates in jewel stealing and counterfeited money through his own doctor he manages to put under his hypnotic control. It is the vision of a dark society in which nothing can be expected except a bleak and bloody end in bombs and upheavals. The interest of the film comes from the technique of having a ghost in a real image. That special effect was just coming out and a new dimension was found in the cinema. But the other interest is the total despair that surges from this film. Unbearable despair. And just for this bleak black and white and without any colour at all vision of our society based on money and profit I would advise you to watch it: it is in that vision that all dictators in the world can find their support because then they are bringing the colour that is missing to those poor people and Hitler brought red and Stalin brought red and Mao Zedong brought red, and so many brought that same color meaning blood, though some others preferred green meaning some fundamentalist religious vision of life. When you believe the spirit of a man can invade people and take control of them, then you can understand how tyrants and dictators manage to take it over to their own chess game.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
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The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (The Criterion Collection)
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