The Terror of Dr Mabuse (1962)

Terror of Dr Mabuse (1962)‘Mabuse had the greatest brain that history has ever known. This brain here.’

Dr Mabuse survived the laboratory explosion that brought his previous schemes to an end but is incarcerated in an asylum for the hopelessly insane, where he spends his days scribbling endless notes and diagrams. These are seemingly meaningless doodles but a series of daring robberies point to a well-organised criminal gang and Inspector Lohmann finds that all roads lead back to Mabuse…

For the third in the new Mabuse series, the producers decided to return to the original trilogy, helmed by Fritz Lang, and remake ‘The Testament of Dr Mabuse’ (1933). Indeed, the film was released under that title in some territories.

So, we open with Mabuse in the nuthatch. We never find out how he survived the climax of the previous film, but I guess the producers weren’t too worried about it. He also looks remarkably well, considering, although he is apparently as crazy as a sack full of mice. This early sequence serves as a calling card for new director, Werner Klingler. The framing of shots and the striking interplay of light and shadow deliberately evoke German Cinema of the 1920s and 30s. From the start, we’re in no doubt: this guy knows his Mabuse!

Another big plus is the return of Gert Frobe as the local Police Kommissar, who was sorely missed in the previous entry in the series. Unfortunately, he’s saddled with some tiresome comic relief in the form of a sidekick, but some of the more painful dialogue may have been a result of the U.S. dub. There is also an early role for the luminous Senta Berger, who became a regular presence in Hollywood later in the decade. Here, she is simply saddled with the role of ‘the girlfriend.’

Terror of Dr Mabuse (1962) 2

‘You know, I’m beginning to suspect you might be a bit of a nutter…’

Unfortunately, the film never escapes the shadow of the original Fritz Lang classic. The plot is pedestrian and Helmut Schmid as a washed-up boxer and nominal hero never really engages audience sympathy. Too many of the details seem to be simply warmed over or rehashed from the good doctor’s previous cinematic outings. It’s a disappointment because there is obvious technical expertise on show and Frobe makes an unlikely, but very engaging, hero.

It probably seemed a safe bet to remake one of the original films for a new generation but, in the end, it would have made more sense to branch out in a new direction. An entertaining enough 90 minutes of action and intrigue, but it could have been so much more.


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