Dr Mabuse the Gambler

Starring: Rudolf Klein-Rogge
Eureka Video
RRP: 24.99
Certificate: PG
Available 24 May 2004

Dr Mabuse The Gambler is the precursor to the recently reviewed sequel, The Testament of Dr Mabuse. Based on a novel by Norbert Jacques, this one follows the exploits of a criminal genius who stamps his authority on 1920s German society. Through strict rules and force of will, he terrorises the public and those thieves, murderers and counterfeiters forced to work under his control, because no one crosses Dr Mabuse and lives...

First shown in 1922, Fritz Lang originally made this as a two-part film (4.5 hours in its entirety). Rudolf Klein-Rogge plays the title character as he did in the sequel (incidentally, he also played Rotwang the scientist in Lang's Metropolis). Proof that timing is an important factor in all things comes in the fact that The Gambler depicts more violence in a decadent society than Testament, and yet it was the latter which was banned by the Nazis, Hitler having just been appointed chancellor.

With the sequel already out on DVD, it's giving nothing away to reveal that The Gambler ends at the point of Mabuse's fall into madness and incarceration into a mental asylum.

Once again full marks go to the incredible reconstruction job carried out in 2000 using the German and foreign distribution negatives. The digitally remastered picture and sound is as clear as you could ever want it. Who would have believed a few years ago that we would be listening to a 1922 film score in digital 5.1 surround sound!

Having said that, because this is a silent movie (with both German and English subtitles) there is an unnecessary need for constant orchestral blasting or piano maiming. Imagine over four hours of manic Keystone Cops-type music and you'll probably understand why I was driven to distraction. But as soon as you mute the sound your mind wanders, so it is necessary in hindsight as a focus. The documentary Mabuse's Music has Aljoscha Zimmermann demonstrate and rationalise Gottfried Huppertz's composition, but a central theme even with variations soon wears thin.

Other extra features include: Norbert Jacques, the Literary Inventor of Dr Mabuse; the Motives and Themes of Mabuse; a photo gallery; Facts and Dates; Biographies; and Imprint (restoration credits).

As often proves the case, I preferred learning about the background to the film much more than the feature itself, but this two-disc package will be a worthy addition to any collector's library of any old and rare films

Ty Power

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