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Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse

The Crimes of Dr. Mabuse
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

Germany 1933
produced by
Seymour Nebenzal, Fritz Lang for Nero Film
directed by Fritz Lang
starring Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Oskar Beregi, Otto Wernicke, Gustav Diessl, Wera Liessem, Camilla Spira, Karl Meixner, Theo Lingen, Theodor Loos, Rudolf Schündler, Paul Oskar Höcker
written by Thea von Harbou, Fritz Lang, based on characters by Norbert Jacques, music by Hans Erdmann

Dr. Mabuse, Kommissar Lohmann

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Hofmeister (Karl Meixner), an ex-police detective fallen from grace because of bribery, calls his former boss, Kommissar (= commissioner) Lohmann (Otto Wernicke, who played the same role in M from 2 years earlier) to warn him of a terrible crimewave, but before he can spill the beans of who is behind all this - it's of course Doctor Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) - the lights go out, a scream ... & he is found totally bonkers & put into the mental asylum run by professor Baum (Oskar Beregi).

Another guest at this asylum is Doctor Mabuse (put there at the end of Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler) who seems to have totally retreated to an autistic-like state, the only thing he does is writing maniacally.

That would put him above suspicion one might think, but of course what he writes are indeed foolproof plans for future crimes, and he has immense hypnotic abilities that allow him to influence Doctor Baum himself to put up a massive criminal organization that in his name commits terrible crimes, with Mabuse never even leaving the cell. Crimes include forging money, jewel theft & driving people in power to suicide by infernal blackmailing.

But to what end ?, one might ask. Mabuse wants to destabilize the state & put himself, the great crimelord, into power. At first everything works nice & dandy, with everyone who opposes Mabuse in the slightest being bumped off, & employees who question him in the slightest being dealt with accordingly. & when Lohmann finds the first traces that actually lead to Mabuse, that is no problem for Mabuse either - he just dies (for real) & takes over Baum's body (!?).

He hasn't accounted for one of his goons though, Kent (Gustav Diessl), the killer with a heart of gold who turned to crime because of long term unemployment but got his head set straight by good girl Lilli (Wera Liessem). This however only leads for the 2 of them to be locked into a room with a timebomb, & only Kent's resourcefulness - he floods the room to both dampen the bombs explosion & ultimately blow them a way to freedom - can save them.

However, Lohmann hasn't been idle meanwhile as he has tracked down &, after a shoot-out, arrested part of Mabuse's/Baum's gang, & even though Baum originally seems to be above all suspicion (as none of the gang know his name of what he looks like), Lohmann is convinced of his involvement &, when Kent arrives to make his statement, he takes him to a chemical plant that the Mabuse gang blows up, where they finally can spot Baum in person.

They pursue him in a wild car-chase, but lose him - only to discover, when they pop up at his asylum, that he is already there, & has taken Mabuse's old cell, all of a sudden completely off the hook ...


Fritz Lang has directed a very slick & stylish crime picture here, & the story - especially considering the time the film was made - can be read as a metaphor for Hitler taking over Germany, & the fact that the film was forbidden in Germany upon its release (it premiered in France & Austria in 1933) seems to emphasize on that. And even from today's point of view, some of Mabuse's methods of terrorism seem terribly contemporary.

All this however cannot hide the fact that the script, in many ways, is very uneven, even trashy: Mabuse's malevolence always borders simplistic comicbook villainy, not at all helped by the fact that he can (or so it seems in the movie) leave his own body & possess somebody else just like that. On top of that, the central love story of Kent & Lilli, that ultimately turns Kent from villain to hero is just awfully cheesy (not at all helped by only mediocre acting of Gustav Diessl & Wera Liessem).



review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




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produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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out now on DVD