Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fritz Lang's "Dr. Mabuse The Gambler" (1922)

Like in many of his other groundbreaking films, Fritz Lang is one step ahead of everyone else in the business with his four and a half hour epic silent film, Dr. Mabuse The Gambler. Lang practically creates the gangster/noir genre of films with this brilliant film. Dr. Mabuse is one of the more spectacular villains I've ever seen. He uses his knowledge in the field of psychoanalysis to illegally win large sums of money in card games and even corrupts the stock market with his powers. Watching all four and a half hours of this film was pure enjoyment. Lang always has spectacular expressionistic set pieces and this 1922 film was no exception. Just like he set the table for the science fiction/dystopia genre with Metropolis, Lang does the same here for the gangster/crime/noir films. This is something he would later PERFECT in the sequel to this film, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, and M, his film about a kidnapper of young girls.

It's not just his film techniques that were groundbreaking, but also the subject matter. This is a fairly dark film that centers around all that is illegal in 1922 Germany. The boundaries sure were pushed here.

Not enough can be said about the characters Lang creates with his dazzling atmospheres and simple use of intertitles. He knew when and where to place the on screen text and definitely did not go overboard or give the viewer unnecessary slides. Lang is usually heralded for most of his other work, but Dr. Mabuse The Gambler is by far one of his greatest works ever. It was most most likely not a famous piece because of it's long run time. I consider this an essential silent film and an even more essential gangster/crime genre film that everyone who wants to see the genre's origin should see. This is a stepping stone for Lang and shades of his absolute greatness to come with his talking pictures, both Germany and American. If you are worried about the long run time, don't be, Kino separated this epic saga into two parts on two discs as it was originally shown. Take a break or be a mega nerd and watch it all the way through like I did. Whatever you choose, enjoy it, for it really is something spectacular.


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