If you already own the Lang Collection on DVD you might baulk at paying £20 for adding The Testament of Doctor Mabuse on Blu-Ray, but for completists this is a must-have, and a marvellous reminder of just how brilliant the director was.
After he mastered cameras and editing in the silent era, Lang gained the advantage of sound, and after the slightly indulgent length of Dr Mabuse: The Gambler, here he cuts it down with a much tighter story and a very clear criticism of the Nazis.
Lang has the redoubtable Otto Wernicke the policeman chasing Peter Lorre in Lang’s brilliant M again cast as a detective with a crime spree on his hands. He has had Mabuse confined to a mental asylum, but doesn’t realise the Doctor’s power of influence. Lang uses this set-up to put a series of Nazi slogans into the clearly mad Mabuse’s mouth. It was so obvious Joseph Goebbels spotted it, banned the film and offered Lang a post as head of German filmmaking. Lang fled to Paris, leaving behind his Nazi-sympathising wife. Testament still packs an extraordinary punch, and the paranoia it contains was put to good use years later in Lang’s contribution to American film noir.
Mabuse exists in a state of catatonic graphomania’, scribbling a series of apparently bonkers blueprints on paper, but when the city is plunged into the chaos of a crime spree the police have to find the mastermind behind it all.
Overall verdict: Fascinating and visually stunning, this is essential for fans of film noir and German Expressionist cinema.
HD transfer in 1080p on the Blu-Ray
Original German intertitles with optional English subtitles
Audio commentary by David Kalat
Reviewer: Mike Martin