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All Day Entertainment presents
The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960)

"It's a face. The face of a dead man. No, he's alive! Mabuse, Dr. Mabuse!."
- Peter Cornelius (Wolfgang Preiss)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: July 15, 2000

Stars: Gert Frobe, Dawn Addams, Peter van Eyck
Other Stars: Wolfgang Preiss, Werner Peters, Howard Vernon
Director: Fritz Lang

Manufacturer: Complete Post
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, language)
Run Time: 01h:39m:15s
Release Date: July 25, 2000
UPC: 014381964929
Genre: crime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-B-C- A

DVD Review

One of the benefits of home video is being able to go back and taking apart a film with an extraordinarily complex plot. The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse, the final film of noted director Fritz Lang (Metropolis and M), is clearly such a movie. As the commentary notes, with one exception no character is what he or she appears to be. A second viewing is quite rewarding; I can, however, understand why the film did not make much of an impact on its initial release. When one sees the amazing complexity of supercriminal Dr. Mabuse's scheming, it would be truly frustrating not to revisit the earlier portions of the movie. I ended up watching the film four times through and am still not confident I've caught everything.

This was the third Mabuse film, the two preceding entries in the series being Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922) and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1932). Since Mabuse died in the second film, Lang had to fall onto other resources for a third film. Here, Mabuse is almost symbolic, as if he were a spirit of evil which is personified from time to time. The parallel to Matt Wagner's Grendel character is almost irresistible. While the villain may not be the same person physically, he is part of the same mental manifestation. Mabuse is less a criminal than a demented mindset; his goal seems to have little to do with money or power, but the destruction of the earth instead. The means for doing so involve a series of mysterious homicides, the victims of which have all recently stayed at the Hotel Luxor in Munich.

Opposed to Mabuse is Gert Frobe (Goldfinger) as Kras, a somewhat clumsy police investigator. His efforts are nothing but bumbling, however, as his attempts to flush out Mabuse result in two relatively innocent parties getting killed. He is cryptically aided by a blind clairvoyant (Wolfgang Preiss) who serves as an unforgettable visual symbol for the film. The nominal but completely ineffectual hero, billionaire Henry Taylor (Peter van Eyck, who would make several other Mabuse films), is tied in with mysterious woman Marion Monil (Dawn Addams) and spends a significant part of the film voyeuristically watching her through a two-way mirror. In true noir tradition, none of the major characters is particularly likeable; at best they don't want to destroy the world.

Lang's camera is occasionally static, but there are flashes of his old true brilliance. Most notable is the shot of a dance floor in the hotel which pulls back to reveal that it is an image on a television screen, rather than truth. This technique symbolizes the conflict between appearance and reality which the film centers on. Lang also uses editing for juxtaposition quite masterfully; no sooner does someone mention a telephone call than we cut to Kras's telephone which almost instantly is blown up with a booby trap. Similarly, in the masterful opening sequence, which unbeknownst to the viewer conveys an enormous amount of information, no sooner does Cornelius warn Kras that a murder is about to take place, than the trigger is pulled in broad daylight, without any crime having visibly occurred to the people on the street. Indeed, it's not until much later that the police realize that a crime has been committed.

The German title sequence is included; the animated floating eyes give an unsettling eerieness to start the picture. This is really the only horror element to the film, however. The included U.S. trailer which emphasizes the horror aspect really must have set audiences up for a letdown.

In all, a rewarding look at the swan song of a master director. Now, All Day, may we please have the original two Lang-directed Mabuse films?

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The picture quality is strikingly good. The first five reels are mostly struck from an internegative, and parts of the first reel and the last reel are from an old video transfer, but the image is not noticeably different. Blacks are strong and shadow detail is excellent. The black and white picture does have a fair amount of speckling to it, there is some minor scratching and there are four or five instances of significant frame damage, but this DVD is certainly an immense step forward over the old public domain prints of this film. Part of the picture quality results from a high bit rate averaging about 7 to 8 Mbps.

The main drawback, which is hardly perceptible, is that the disc was mastered from PAL video, meaning that even though it is complete, the running time is nearly six minutes shorter than it should have been. Other than knowing that the running time is off, I didn't notice any difference.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Germanyes


Audio Transfer Review: The German DD 1.0 track is rather noisy, with crackles, pops and hiss throughout. This tends to be more pronounced in the first reel or so, and audibly gets better about fifteen minutes in. The English track is quiet and sounds fine, although the voices from the dub don't match most of the actors very well. Frobe in particular has a ridiculous-sounding dubbed voice. More restoration should have been done on the German track; the noise levels are the main problem I have with this release.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Phantom Fiend (US version of The Return of Dr. Mabuse); Terror of the Mad Doctor (US version of Testament of Dr. Mabuse); and The Invisible Horror (US version of The Invisible Dr. Mabuse)
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by DVD producer David Kalat
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:08m:48s

Extra Extras:
  1. Reprint of Roger Greenspun's article on the film in Film Comment March 1973
  2. Posters and publicity materials for Dr. Mabuse films
  3. Archive of stills
Extras Review: All Day Entertainment presents a full-length commentary and a 33m:41s documentary on Fritz Lang to supplement the main feature; both of them are information-packed and quite worthwhile, especially for anyone with an interest in the career of Fritz Lang.

David Kalat, who is the author of a forthcoming book on the Mabuse films, makes for an informative, knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide. He clearly loves these movies and imparts a great deal of his knowledge on this track. Although apparently scripted, he does interrupt the canned talk at times to point out items of interest on the screen. The commentary is quite satisfactory and adds immensely to enjoyment of the film. Possibly the most interesting portion relates to the difficulties faced in restoring this film; from the sounds of it, the next film in the series, The Return of Dr. Mabuse, is all but lost in any sort of decent form, so we're very lucky to have this picture in such good condition.

The documentary consists of interview footage with a variety of people who knew Lang, including Forrest J. Ackerman of Famous Monsters of Filmland fame. Richard Gordon, Kevin Thomas and Gilbert Mandelik. The piece is cleverly edited so that the interviewees almost seem to be commenting on each others' remarks. Obviously, the recollections tend to focus on Lang's later career and his tragic battle with glaucoma which ended his movie career after this film, so it tends to be a slightly depressing affair, but Lang is clearly remembered warmly by the participants.

The trailers for other Mabuse films are interesting, not least of all the gyrations which the American releasing companies went through to avoid any reference to Dr. Mabuse, and their attempts to make them appear to be generic drive-in horror fare, which they certainly aren't. The trailers are the same as on the companion volume, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. Posters for all of the Mabuse films are included, as are a wealth of stills, thoughtfully windowboxed.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

There are some shortcomings in the video portion of this film, and to a greater extent the German audio track, but overall this is a very solid presentation of the final film of a great director. I very much look forward to similar treatments of Lang's other Mabuse films by All Day.

 


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