231 The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

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Alonzo the Armless
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231 The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

#1 Post by Alonzo the Armless » Wed Nov 10, 2004 10:24 am

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

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Locked away in an asylum for a decade and teetering between life and death, the criminal mastermind Doctor Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) has scribbled his last will and testament: a manifesto establishing a future empire of crime. When the document's nefarious writings start leading to terrifying parallels in reality, it's up to Berlin's star detective, Inspector Lohmann (Otto Wernicke, reprising his role from M) to connect the most fragmented, maddening clues in a case unlike any other. A sequel to his enormously successful silent film Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler, Fritz Lang's The Testament of Dr. Mabuse reunites the director with the character that had effectively launched his career. Lang put slogans and ideas expounded by the Nazis into the mouth of a madman, warning his audience of an imminent menace, which was soon to become a reality. Nazi Minister of Information Joseph Goebels saw the film as an instruction manual for terrorist action against the government and banned it for “endangering public order and security.â€

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#2 Post by cdnchris » Tue Jan 18, 2005 8:44 pm

Got this one for Christmas as well and just finished watching it. I think this movie is one of the most fun out of the whole collection. I love Lang's use of sound. I remember being fond of it in M, but I think he plays with it in a more interesting way here. The opening sequence was great and the sequence involving the murder at the street intersection are the standouts for me. The set-up of that "hit" is one of the best I've seen, with the horns honking and then the silence of the gun shot. There is only one word to describe that and it is "awesome!"

My jaw dropped a few times in this film, and I was just blown away by a lot of the visuals. I guess I shouldn't be shocked, but it still amazes me when a film more than 70 years old has far more fascinating visuals and better pacing than any movie made today. I'll take the ghost vision of Mabuse over CGI anyday. I'm now going to look into the other Mabuse films. I'm disappointed Criterion wasn't able to put out a box set, but c'est la vie. I can't wait to look at the rest of the stuff on this DVD.

All-in-all, the best way I can explain this film from my excitement of seeing it is that it, simply put, kicks major ass!! Easily one of my favourites in the collection.

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#3 Post by justeleblanc » Tue Jan 18, 2005 11:38 pm

i can tell by your spelling of the word "favourite" that you probably live in region 2 land. i'm jealous. you get a great dr. mabuse: the gambler dvd on eureka's MoC label.... we get a mediocre 2-disc set ironically on the image label.

by the way, is the murder scene at the tollbooth in godfather an homage to the scene in testament of mabuse? i say it is.

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#4 Post by Andre Jurieu » Wed Jan 19, 2005 12:31 am

JusteLeblanc wrote:i can tell by your spelling of the word "favourite" that you probably live in region 2 land. i'm jealous.
This was a joke at the expense of Canadians, right?

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#5 Post by justeleblanc » Wed Jan 19, 2005 3:20 am

Andre Jurieu wrote:
JusteLeblanc wrote:i can tell by your spelling of the word "favourite" that you probably live in region 2 land. i'm jealous.
This was a joke at the expense of Canadians, right?
canadian's spell it "favourite" as well? and i dont think there was an expense to the joke, maybe me.

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#6 Post by cdnchris » Wed Jan 19, 2005 10:30 am

JusteLeblanc wrote:i can tell by your spelling of the word "favourite" that you probably live in region 2 land. i'm jealous. you get a great dr. mabuse: the gambler dvd on eureka's MoC label.... we get a mediocre 2-disc set ironically on the image label.

by the way, is the murder scene at the tollbooth in godfather an homage to the scene in testament of mabuse? i say it is.
No, I'm a Canuck so I'm stuck with Region 1 stuff as well. Canadians use the "ou" spelling. Colour, favour, neighbour, etc.

As for the "hit" scene I did think of the Godfather hit. While they were completely different in execution, the way it was shot and paced did sort of have the same feel to it. I instantly thought of it, so maybe there was some inspiration.

The car chase at the end of the film was pretty impressive, too. And I must say that Lohmann is amazing at changing tires on a vehicle!! :)

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#7 Post by mbalson » Wed Jan 19, 2005 11:29 am

I'm a Canuck so I'm stuck with Region 1 stuff as well
Shouldn't we all be free of DVD Regions by now? For god sake, hold off on a few titles for a week and buy a Region free DVD player already. :)

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#8 Post by Godot » Thu Jun 09, 2005 5:38 pm

Chris Fujiwara wrote a critique of the film in the Spring issue of Cineaste, including (generally glowing) comments on the CC release. Not sure if I should post the entire article or just link to it; the link will probably expire next month, so read or print it soon.

Fujiwara article on The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

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#9 Post by GringoTex » Thu Jun 09, 2005 9:11 pm

amateurist wrote:Lang may have gotten a few vaguely anti-Nazi licks in his German films, but none of them really justify the retrospective characterization (by Lang and others) of full-blown (or subversive) anti-Nazism.
Excellent post. I agree with you completely. It's similar to Lucas trying to capitalize on Ep. 3 as an anti-Bush tract.

cbernard

#10 Post by cbernard » Thu Jun 09, 2005 11:30 pm

Well, that's depressing, I think it's one of his best. Fury is really great, though. Anyone seen Liliom?

The romantic couple in this film, they're great! Their lovey-dovey-ness is the stuff of nightmares.

Anyway, I don't think the film's "stance" has much to do with what makes it great.

My favorite Lang is the first Mabuse.

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#11 Post by justeleblanc » Fri Jun 10, 2005 12:16 am

cbernard wrote:My favorite Lang is the first Mabuse.
By far! Well, either that or Destiny. You'd think that Criterion could get their hands on the newest print of the first Mabuse films and give it R1 justice. I've been complaining about that for too long, though. No one seems to be listening.

cbernard

#12 Post by cbernard » Sat Jun 11, 2005 9:34 am

It may have just been the second viewing, but I revisited Der Spieler via Eureka's edition. It contains more footage than the Image release and unless I'm mistaken it's also speed-corrected. Anyway what happened is the film went from "cumbersome silent film I respect more than like" to "brain-crushingly awesome silent film that rocks until it bleeds."

It's a Criterion waiting to happen. That's what I hope, anyway. The Criterion Flowers of St. Francis, following quickly on the heals of the Eureka/MoC, makes me hope for more of the same.

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#13 Post by justeleblanc » Sat Jun 25, 2005 8:31 am

I've been emailing Image getting them to either do something with the new Der Spieler print of hand it off to Criterion. Of course, they wont listen.

And I actually sort of liked the Indian films. But in the same way I like the new Star Wars trilogy. They're all dissapointing and show a director losing his steam, but they are far from crap.

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#14 Post by unclehulot » Sat Jun 25, 2005 8:57 am

cbernard wrote:It may have just been the second viewing, but I revisited Der Spieler via Eureka's edition. It contains more footage than the Image release and unless I'm mistaken it's also speed-corrected. Anyway what happened is the film went from "cumbersome silent film I respect more than like" to "brain-crushingly awesome silent film that rocks until it bleeds."

It's a Criterion waiting to happen. That's what I hope, anyway. The Criterion Flowers of St. Francis, following quickly on the heals of the Eureka/MoC, makes me hope for more of the same.
"Speed-corrected" has no absolute bearing on silent film. It's a matter of research and interpretation. I don't see anything wrong with the speed on either version.

I wouldn't wish Criterion to step on the heels of an Eureka/MoC release too many times... that is if you want to see more MoC releases. As Perpee has mentioned in another thread, a Criterion release tends to squash the competition even in the UK, since NTSC is easily handled by most machines manufactured in the UK. So, MoC must try and choose projects that aren't likely to be picked up by Criterion.

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#15 Post by unclehulot » Sat Jun 25, 2005 9:03 am

JusteLeblanc wrote:I've been emailing Image getting them to either do something with the new Der Spieler print of hand it off to Criterion. Of course, they wont listen.
You're assuming that Image has a relationship with Transitfilm, the rights holder for that version. As far as I know, Kino is the only one to have such a relationship in the US. Criterion hasn't dealt with them either. In any case, it's not Image that decides to "hand it off" to either of them. I would bark in Kino's direction.

Why don't you simply get R2 enabled and buy that version? It's not much of an outlay of cash these days.
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#16 Post by justeleblanc » Sat Jun 25, 2005 9:54 am

I figured that if Kino could do it, they would have released it as part of their 2004 set.

As for Region 2 player, if I got it I'd find myself double dipping way too much and I'm too neurotic.

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#17 Post by amateurist » Sat Jun 25, 2005 12:42 pm

Is Lang the filmmaker whose silent films are most thoroughly represented on DVD? Of his surviving silents, only "Harakiri" and "Die Pest in Florenz" aren't on DVD (that I know of).

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#18 Post by justeleblanc » Sat Jun 25, 2005 1:34 pm

Four Around A Woman and Madame Butterfly... but again they might not be surviving.

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#19 Post by zedz » Sat Jun 25, 2005 10:10 pm

amateurist wrote:Is Lang the filmmaker whose silent films are most thoroughly represented on DVD? Of his surviving silents, only "Harakiri" and "Die Pest in Florenz" aren't on DVD (that I know of).
Well, there's 100% of Bunuel and Vigo (ho ho). More to the point, I think all of Keaton's surviving films are available.

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#20 Post by amateurist » Sat Jun 25, 2005 10:17 pm

"Madame Butterfly" is the same film as "Harakiri," and it survives. It turns out that, to my surprise, both "The Wandering Image" and "Fighting Hearts/Four Around a Woman" survive, thanks to prints discovered in Brazil in the late 1980s. So I guess there are four extant Lang silents unavailable on DVD.
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#21 Post by david hare » Sun Jun 26, 2005 1:13 am

Legs Diamond I am curious as to why you nominate four "worst" films of Lang (five really) and then don't support the assertions.
I find it very easy to make significant arguments for the greatness of the Indian duo (Architectural vision, absolute paring down of narrative and the completely direct mise-en-scene and the return to "story telling"), and Secret Beyond the Door (the sheer gorgeousness of Cortez' cinematography, the sexual and psychological ambivalences of the Redgrave character, the oneiric climax and resolution) for instance but I would hesitate to do so in any detail until I know what it is you find so wanting.. As for Liliom I absolutely have to reserve judgment (although it SEEMS like a minor Lang) on the appalling Kino transfer, at least until a decent print becomes available. And if you want rock bottom Lang (or any other major director) you can't go past American Guerilla in the Philipines. A totally routine picture which Lang says he only made for the money. If the proof is in the pudding I own every Lang title on DVD or video except three and find myself constantly revisiting his movies and gettiing more and more from them. There had been a bit of argument on the forum earlier about Spione and the relative worth of the earlier shorter version which many felt played better than the longer Transitfilm print but I have to say I like both, and I certainly like the additional material in the new version, if only for the amplification of Fritz Rasp's performance for example.

To cut a long post short we are all entitled to personal favorites or reservations. I can say I don't like Cloak and Dagger as much as. say Manhunt, but the next day I'll read a post from someone who has something penetarting to say about it (not least perhaps Cooper's remarkably gentle performance as one the progenitors of nuclear weapons.) But you have to give reasons. Nobody respects opinion alone.

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#22 Post by david hare » Sun Jun 26, 2005 1:40 am

Apologies - just proofed myself too late to correct Die Frau im Mond for Spione.

But once again what makes it one of the "worst" for you? The pacing, the von Harbouisms of the screenplay (no more emphatic here than in Metropolis)? I agree I prefer Spione and most of the other silents to this but I have a soft spot for the Gerda/Willy pairing in both pictures. And I simply haven't seen it as often as the others. How much of Lang himself is invested in Willy's characterization and his own relationship with Gerda? And how much "disguised" autobiography do we allow in viewing the movie? Also don't you find the technical/documentary style footage absolutely in keeping with Lang's persistent attention to detail throughout his career?

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#23 Post by djali999 » Sun Jun 26, 2005 3:51 pm

Flixy - I'm glad to see somebody agrees with me that the shortened version of Spies works better as an overall viewing experience. I had seen the commonly circulated 90-so minute version and found it quite engaging, then picked up the full version from Kino a month or so ago and struggled through the entire middle chunk. Although I appreciate the neat division of the film into six "episodes", prefiguring the chapter-like division on M into episodes, the two middle segments involving duplicitous romance really slaughters the momentum of the film. Which is a shame because the last 40 minutes of Spies is Lang at his best.

Funny, isn't it, how the fully restored versions of films can lose something? After years of not having touched it I finally put in the Kino DVD of Nosferatu. Transit-Film's print finally clears up certain ambiguities I've always sensed in the narrative, yet I think I'll continue to watch my Image version. Although now some of the finer points of the film make sense, I can't help but think it's lost something of the shortened versions, a certain violence and urgency, a certain ambiguity that I miss. Also, the music accompanying the film on Kino is terrible.

I'm also starting to take umbrage to terms like "van Harbouisms" in Lang. Although I can't claim to have cracked the nut and understand, on sight, where Lang's contributions end and von Harbou's begin, I'm starting to become weary of the practice of attributing any and all of the shortcomings in Lang's films to von Harbou. I've noticed, for example, that the romantic coupling that almost sinks Spies is also the romantic coupling that almost sinks Testament of Dr. Mabuse (see? I even linked this into the topic thread!), a film that, by all accounts, Lang wrote more or less by himself. Yet I see a reduction of this fault in both Metropolis and a complete absence of it in M, two films we know she worked on.

Lang's next four features after Testament had central romantic couplings, one of which we know is one of his favorites (Liliom, from his own mouth) and two of which he seems to have exerted significant artistic control over (You Only Live Once & You and Me). Although in the latter two cases it may be chalked up to concessions to American taste and the former to the fact that he came in as a director after the films had already been developed, I'm starting to wonder if this particular "von Harbouism" is really a "Langism" in disguise.

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#24 Post by david hare » Sun Jun 26, 2005 5:25 pm

good point about the "von Harbouisms." Certainly people (including me) generally mean them negatively, but I have to say I actually quite like von Harbou's conrtibutions to the screenplay of, say, Metropolis - frankly I can't imagine the picture without the quai-sentimental character of Maria (the good) and her final entreaty to link the "heart and the hand." In any case such sentimentality, if you can call it that, was a major element of the Weimar period and is quite evident in Murnau and others. (Interestingly Dreyer in MIchael recognizes it in Herman Bang's overheated novel and subverts it completely to render his German language masterpiece.)

And you may be right about "Langisms" in terms of the Gerda/Willy relationships in both Spione and Frau im Mond. Also remember a romantic relationshiip rent asunder in Rancho Notrious and Big Heat for instance is the dynamo for the action and the inescapable need for revenge.

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#25 Post by david hare » Tue Jun 28, 2005 4:46 am

I should add I think Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice deadly!

And The Informer which I find deeply offensive.

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