The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)

testament of dr mabuse poster 1933 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Clever and innovative

Kind of all over the place at points in the film

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

Studio: Movie Studio

Genre(s): Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s): Movie Release Date

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

testament of dr mabuse ghost

Hey, Dr. Mabuse…you’ve looked better

Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) is a genius, a mastermind, and has controls over people through the power of hypnosis.  Though Mabuse has been institutionalized for a number of years, it appears that someone is running a crime syndicate in his name and using his knowledge to complete the crimes.  Inspector Lohmann (Otto Wernicke) is out to find out who is running the crime ring…and if it isn’t Mabuse, whom is it?  Meanwhile, a member of the crime ring named Thomas Kent (Gustav Diessl) has met a nice girl named Lilli (Wera Liessem) and wants to get out…but the grip of Dr. Mabuse is strong!

Written and directed by Fritz Lang (with additional scripting by Thea von Harbou), The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse) is a German crime mystery-thriller.  A sequel to Lang’s 1922 film Dr. Mabuse the Gambler, the film is an adaptation of Dr. Mabuse’s creator Norbert Jacques’ unfinished Mabuse’s Colony.  The film was banned in Germany when Hitler came to power by Joseph Goebbels due to the idea of a puppet controller.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #231).

testament of dr mabuse otto wernicke

I reckon I should look into this Mabuse guy

Fritz Lang always brings it.  His films are edgy, experimental, and clever.  The Testament of Dr. Mabuse is no exception in that sense, and you can see a lot of influence from Mabuse in films that follow it.

The story is different in that the lead “villain” Mabuse is dead halfway through the film.  Mabuse is met to be Fu Manchu type “super villain” that essentially is the Lex Luthor of the crime syndicate.  He has abilities and skills that make him run laps around the police and keeps him one step ahead of the criminals he’s controlling…even if he’s dead.  The film makes it a mystery on who Mabuse really is (it isn’t a very good mystery) and also has some intense action scenes…or at least intense for the time.

Rudolf Klein-Rogge reprises his role as Dr. Mabuse and does have that “crazy” look that seems to be a leftover from silent pictures.  Otto Wernicke is an odd police detective in that while he looks like so many bumbling police officers, he’s actually a fairly effective investigator and detective.  Gustav Diessl is the heroic lead of the film though the character of Hofmeister played by Karl Meixner starts out as what appears to be the lead.  I particularly like Oscar Beregi Sr. as Professor Baum who does a really, really bad job hiding his ties to Mabuse (even if no one can see it).

testament of dr mabuse ghost rudolf klein rogge oscar beregi sr

You are a pretty bossy ghost

The movie doesn’t have the visuals of something like Lang’s Metropolis, but it still has a lot of experiment aspects like double exposer overlays, some clever plotlines involving a glass etching (which feels really Hitchcockian) and a great car chase that has the craziness look of Cruella Da Vil.  It is sleek and rather stylish (though it is sometimes hard to find a good print of the film).

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse feels like it has lasting effects.  The “man behind the curtain” aspect of Mabuse has been used multiple times (including to greater extent in The Wizard of Oz…which kind of came from that novel) and the idea of a criminal passing on his legacy also kind of feels a bit like Jigsaw from the Saw movies.  There is also a coolness to Baum after questioning by Lohmann (who doesn’t necessarily know he’s mental state) that resembles Kevin Spacey’s famous Verbal in The Usual Suspects.  Christopher Nolan helped craft the Joker in The Dark Knight in Dr. Mabuse’s form.  If you haven’t checked out the movie it is worth seeking out if nothing else to see how it influenced other movies.  Fritz Lang did do a sequel to The Testament of Dr. Mabuse in 1960 called The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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