Blu-ray Review: DR MABUSE, THE GAMBLER (1922)

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Review: Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler / Cert: PG / Director: Fritz Lang / Screenplay: Fritz Lang, Thea von Harbou / Starring: Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Aud Egede-Nissen, Gertrude Welcker, Bernhard Goetzke / Release Date: October 28th

First up, Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler, aka Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler, is a film that you really have to make time for. Fritz Lang’s 1922 classic is split over two parts, with a total running time of nearly four and a half hours. That’s a major commitment for any film fan, but some may struggle even further with the film being a silent movie. That said, those that don’t have a problem with the running time, or those that take enjoyment from silent movies, will find Dr. Mabuse a remarkably rewarding viewing experience.

Based on a novel by Norbert Jacques, the film focuses on the titular Dr. Mabuse (Klein-Rogge). Part criminal overlord, part mob boss, part master of disguise, Mabuse is a piece of work. Remarkably slick for the time, the film, despite the intimidating length, flies by. Fantastic storytelling, chillingly effective camera work, stellar performances, and attention-monopolising charisma means you can’t help but be drawn in by Dr. Mabuse. Adding to the pace and fluidity of the film is the glossy, stylised way that Mabuse pulls off various cons and misdemeanors throughout. All is seemingly perfect in the world of Dr. Mabuse, until he comes up against the determined Inspector Wenk (Goetzke).

Dr. Mabuse is a film that is far, far ahead of its time. Considering it was created in the early 1920s, you get to see such depth of story; so many different arcs, twists, and styles. There are elements of spy films, psychologically disturbing films, whodunit films, chase films, and detective dramas. On top of these elements, the movie also has some interesting symbolism in place, with emphasis on the economic and social pressures of 1920s Berlin.

In terms of techniques, the film was again a pioneer. The brilliant Blu-ray transfer and beautiful scoring adds to the playfully dark, manipulative tale of Dr. Mabuse and his treachery and aids the feel of the movie. This new transfer brings a nostalgic, warm crispness to the film, and it gives you a real appreciation for all of the performances on show, particularly Klein-Rogge’s charismatically deceptive Mabuse.

If a four and a half hour film is not enough to appease your appetite, do not fear. In this new release, we also get treated to a bucket-load of extras, including new additional subtitles, a greatly insightful chatter track from Lang expert David Kalat, and some nice retrospective featurettes. For fans of Dr. Mabuse, Fritz Lang or any of Lang’s other works, such as Metropolis, this newly restored edition of a true classic is a must own.

Extras: Audio commentary by David Kalat / Three extensive featurettes / 32-page booklet

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