This film is fascinating due to the story behind the film, and how much of what we see parallels the journey our director, Fritz Lang, takes, similar to that of Elia Kazan’s journey through being blacklisted in “On The Waterfront” or Akira Kurosawa’s peril of being rejected by every film studio in his own country with “Ran.”
Lang was one of the most visionary directors in Germany between the 1920s and 1930s, making visually stunning movies such as “M” and “Metropolis.” He was one of the leading filmmakers of the German Expressionist film movement, but many would argue Lang pushed the envelope even further by making his films less about their off-balance worlds and more about the impoverished people who inhabit those off-balance worlds.
This did not go unnoticed by the growing Nazi movement.
By the time Fritz Lang finished making “M,” he was beginning to see the signs of what the Nazis planned to do, all in the name of making Germany great again. Lang, who was Jewish, less than approved of what the Nazis were doing and especially how they were censoring cinema.
In Lang’s mind, the Nazis were taking advanced of the German people’s need for hope and gave them something to believe in. Something to strive for, something to would lead to a better life. They were implanting ideas into their minds of the German people, as if through hypnosis, to give the Nazis the loyal and obedient army they needed.
When Fritz Lang released “The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse,” a sequel to his 1922 film “Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler,” it was banned by the Nazi regime. The new Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, said the film was banned due to “violent imagery,” though it was more likely banned because of the constant anti-Nazi messages throughout the film, even though Goebbels never said anything about that.
Afterwards, Lang did not waste anytime and realized the situation was only getting worse. He fled from Germany and eventually made his way to America, and would have another 40-year career in Hollywood.
“The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse” was the last film Lang directed in Germany for nearly 30 years, about how every terrible crime being committed in this city can be linked back to one man, the titular Dr. Mabuse. The problem is that Mabuse has been locked up in an insane asylum for years and has never said a word. The police chief looks into the matter and learns that Mabuse once ran the criminal underground, convincing people to work for him through his masterful use of hypnosis. Through this, the police chief uncovers another evil plot that threatens the entire city.
As captivating a mystery-thriller as “The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse” is, this one stands out due to its history. Lang is able to so brilliantly capture his anger and frustration towards the Nazis so perfectly, while making this film right under their noses. He even works in a few Nazi phrases that these brainwashed gang members believe in.
“The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse” is certainly worth a watch for those who enjoy history or a good crime mystery and are looking for something a bit different.
Final Grade: A-