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The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (The Criterion Collection)

4.5 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Otto Wernicke. A criminal mastermind controls his underworld empire while residing in an asylum, plotting ways of destroying the world. Directed by Fritz Lang. In German with English subtitles. 1933/b&w/120 min/NR/fullscreen.

Special Features

  • New digital transfer with restored image and sound, presented here in its orginal aspect for the first time
  • Audio commentary by David Kalat, author of The Strange Case of Dr. Mabuse
  • Complete French-language version of the film, Le Testament du Dr. Mabuse, filmed simultaneously by Lang with French actors
  • Excerpts from For Example Fritz Lang, 1964 interview with Lang
  • Mabuse in Mind, 1984 film by Thomas Honickel featuring an interview with actor Rudolf Schundler
  • Comparison between the 1932 German version, the French version, and The Crimes of Dr. Mabuse the edited and dubbed American version of the film
  • Interview with German Mabuse expert Michael Farin about the literary inventor of the series, Norbert Jacques
  • Rare production design drawings by art director Emil Hasler
  • Collection of memorabilia, press books, stills, and posters
  • New essay by Tom Gunning, author of The Films of Fritz Lang

Product Details

  • Actors: Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Otto Wernicke, Gustav Diessl, Rudolf Schündler, Oskar Höcker
  • Directors: Fritz Lang
  • Writers: Fritz Lang, Norbert Jacques, Thea von Harbou
  • Producers: Fritz Lang, Seymour Nebenzal
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Color, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: German (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: May 18, 2004
  • Run Time: 122 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001UZZS6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,611 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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Format: 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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Format: Blu-ray
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.
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