October Overlook Madness 2014 #1 – Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (1933)

Hello everyone once again to this madness that is “October Overlook Madness”, the adventure in which you and I march together through an entire month of horror and madness and abject abhorrent series of events. One horror movie review every day of a horror movie I haven’t seen before. So, if you read what I said yesterday, I talked about how hard it was going to be this year, but since I’ve never fallen behind schedule, I will do more to guarantee that I give you what you guys want and deserve.

As always, the template for these reviews is the wonderful and always amazing ‘Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness’, where the great James Rolfe reviews a horror movie a day through October. I’m not sure yet what order he will go in his reviews, since the theme is random, and specially since he began with a 2012 movie, with a review of ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ (2012) and you can watch his review in this link. Let’s hope he maintains a good pace or even some kind of logical order, but hey, it’s James, I love him.

Personally, I think that ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ (2012) is maybe one of the great films of the new decade and one of the best horror movies in the past few years, I wrote about three reviews in Spanish for this film so I won’t link to any of those, I’ll just say that I rated it 9 out of 10.

So, since I’ve already seen the movie, I have to watch one that I haven’t seen. Checking my list of Horror movies that I haven’t seen I go to the start of it and see this film from 1933 still unwatched. But, hey, look at that, isn’t it a sequel to the first Mabuse film, ‘Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler – Ein Bild der Zeit’ (1922), a film I hadn’t seen yet, so knowing that maybe the first film of the new Monster Madness would be something that I had already seen, I recently finished watching the silent film (which doesn’t qualify as a horror movie), and I found myself completely enthralled by its visual language and its cohesive and tense plot, a new favorite of me, a 10 out of 10.

Now, after seeing that movie, all I have yet to do is see the film that was allotted for today, so here it is my review of ‘Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse’ (1933).

So, Dr. Mabuse ended the last movie crazy, he was burdened, after all his crimes, by the dead and the weight of his actions onto the people that surrounded him and also the woman that he loved, and thus, when he was finally caught, he was sent to the crazy house. Years later (sound film appeared, so we know it’s been a while) we see that Mabuse is still at the sanatorium, being nursed while at the same time he writes gibberish on large papers, planning out what seems to be his testament for the day he dies. Also, in the city, a new crime organization starts to appear, wrecking havoc in the streets, killing people, robbing, doing the same stuff that Mabuse the Gambler did in his time, but this time more violently. That’s when we know, they are being conducted by someone who calls himself Mabuse… and even more strange, when Mabuse dies, his spirit, apparently, still controls the organization.

While not entirely a horror movie, the elements are here and there, and you can already see why Fritz Lang is considered one of the most visual and important directors of all time. Fresh out of ‘M’ (1931), this movie has many similarities with the German classic film, in terms of the localities that it uses to tell its story, its urban setting, the way that the police work, the idea of an organization of criminals that one day may or may not take over the city, the use of chases as narrative (it enunciates and puts forward the opposition of forces at large at a certain point of the story, something that is needed in a film about double personalities, treason and collaborations between people from all the spectrum of society), as well as that peculiar quality of the German sound films, though in this case the work is superb in almost every way.

Even if made in 1933, one can still see the traces of the German Expressionism here and there, specially when it comes to the scenes involving the sanatorium and anything strictly to Mabuse and his past as this evil overlord gambler. The presence of the old maniacal and mumbling Mabuse is a sight to be hold, fixated in a position for years, with a constant frown, scribbling away instructions and ways in which people can instill a reign of crime and pillaging onto the rest of Germany, something that is taken very seriously by an obsessed figure that is constantly visited by the glistening and beautiful ghost of Mabuse, what might be the most incredible image of the entire movie, with strands of light and silk that tied together form one of the most beautiful shot of a semi-Horror film in the 1930’s.

In a way I can see that the modern world left Mabuse behind, he’s a relic of the past, but at the same time a model to follow, he isn’t seen that much in the movie, but his name is uttered, written, spoken around, his ghost appears only in precise moments in this 121 minute movie, only when we need a new push, a new way of seeing the events that are happening. The opening scene of a phone call between a criminal and the main detective is hilarious and at the same time a frightening sight, one of the most important scenes of the film, as it’s also played again and again on the mind of the criminal, again in the sanatorium, while he tries and can’t say the name of Mabuse, with an almost spiderweb version of his office, playing before his eyes as in a frantic manner calls and calls from an imaginary phone asking for help. Here the perspectives show us that German Expressionism was alive for those sequences, and in a way, just like Mabuse, it was a relic of the past, and it was only necessary to usher us into the new evils that would follow the history of cinema.




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