The Dr. Mabuse Collection (Return of Dr. Mabuse / Invisible Dr. Mabuse / Death Ray Mirror of Dr. Mabuse) (1961-1964)
"I have not taken the place of Dr. Mabuse. Dr. Mabuse is still alive. I am Mabuse!"- ???
Stars: Gert Frobe, Lex Barker, Wolfgang Preiss, Peter Van Eyck
Other Stars: Daliah Lavi, Fausto Tozzi, Werner Peters, Karin Dor, Siegfried Lowitz, Rudolf Fernau, O.E. Hasse, Yvonne Furneaux, Rika Dialina, Walter Rilla
Director: Harald Reinl, Hugo Fregonese
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, thematic material)
Release Date: 2007-01-09
DVD ReviewLong after his two seminal pictures about master criminal Dr. Mabuse, Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922) and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933), Fritz Lang had been lured back to Germany by producer Artur Brauner for purposes of revisiting the character in The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960). This picture triggered a series of five more Mabuse films produced by Brauner, although none would be directed by Lang himself, and only one, the remake of The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1962), has been released on DVD thus far in region 1. Three of the four missing Mabuse pictures are finally supplied in this collection from Retromedia, although they're English-dubbed television prints.
The Return of Dr. Mabuse (1961)
The 1960s Mabuse pictures do form a sort of loose continuity, partly in the screenplays and partly in the repeated appearances by actors in prominent roles. Tying most of them together is the presence of Wolfgang Preiss as Mabuse, even though he's seldom actually seen onscreen, being either only a silhouette or masked as another character. Also returning from The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse is Gert Frobe (Goldfinger) as Inspector Lohmann (essentially the same character as Frobe played in Eyes, though there he was named Kras). Lohmann has had previous experience with Mabuse, whom he is convinced is not dead. FBI agent Joe Como (former Tarzan Lex Barker) appears on the scene, with a half-baked scheme to masquerade as a representative of the Chicago crime syndicate in order to get in touch with Mabuse's organization, if it still exists. As it turns out, Mabuse is indeed still alive, at the head of an army of zombie criminals carrying out assassinations and other crimes, with typical Mabusian flair.
Director Harald Reinl, who also directed The Invisible Dr. Mabuse in this collection, has a fine visual sense that pays tribute to both Lang and the German Expressionist tradition through striking photography and remarkable use of shadows. The gothic church that forms one of the prominent sets is memorable in appearance, while the prison that Mabuse uses as his base of operations has a sterility and mechanical air reminiscent of Lang's Metropolis. Frobe is affably amusing as Lohmann, tired of his suspicions being ridiculed, and slipping into his own madness as he paranoiacally wonders who among the crowd below is Dr. Mabuse. Preiss gets his most spectacular "demise" in the finale. Sex symbol Daliah Lavi makes an impression as press photographer Maria Sabrehm, who has a more central role in the story than Lohmann suspects. True to form, Mabuse runs rings around the police, destroying clues just before the police can seize them, and eliminating witnesses just before the police can talk to them—or even while the police are standing right next to them. It's easily the best picture on this disc, and a worthy followup to Lang.
The Invisible Dr. Mabuse (1962)
Lex Barker returns as Joe Como in this more formulaic entry in the series. Mabuse has less of a role to play, other than his determination to get hold of Operation X, an invisibility process invented by the disfigured Professor Erasmus (Rudolf Fernau). Erasmus, a far cry from using his device for criminal domination, instead uses it to spy upon his obsessive love interest, Liane Martin (Karin Dor). This leaves him vulnerable to extortion by Mabuse when he seizes Liane. As if that isn't bad enough, Mabuse has amongst his entourage an evil clown.
Without Frobe (who would return in the next picture, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse), Barker doesn't have anyone to play off of, and as a result he seems far too stiff and utterly uninteresting. Dor is more entertaining, though her screen time is too limited. The dubbed dialogue is quirky to say the least, with such gems as, "He had one wisdom tooth. It wasn't much use to him." Voyuerism is a central theme again, as it was in 1,000 Eyes. The effects are somewhat on the clumsy side, though the Grand Guignol proceedings of Mabuse's stage show are sufficiently lurid.
The Death Ray Mirror of Dr. Mabuse
The fifth of the six films, Dr. Mabuse vs. Scotland Yard (1964) remains unreleased on DVD, but the disc does conclude with the final picture in the series. Peter Van Eyck (who had appeared as different characters in Eyes and Scotland Yard) returns as British secret agent Major Bob Anders. Sent to Malta to try to make sure that the death ray contraption of Dr. Larsen (O.E. Hasse) doesn't fall into the wrong hands, Anders travels with lady friend Judy (Rika Dialina) pretending to be a couple, but is distraught to realize that everyone seems to know his true identity. Meanwhile, a pack of frogmen, commanded by Dr. Mabuse, are out to steal the device. Anders soon suspects that he may be himself being manipulated by British Intelligence...or is it Mabuse?
This movie is a complete mess, with a finale that makes no sense whatsoever, despite being packed with action. The fight sequences are quite clumsily staged, and there's virtually no suspense generated. Van Eyck is just as hapless as Lohmann, though less likeable. The picture is probably most of interest to fans of James Bond; as David Kalat has pointed out in his The Strange Case of Dr. Mabuse, this potboiler seems to have had a major influence on the makers of Thunderball, from the underwater action sequences to the appearance of Largo in that picture. Throughout this series, Mabuse is generally seen only as a silhouette and heard as a disembodied voice. That's taken to the extreme here, where Mabuse is never actually seen; even though Wolfgang Preiss gets high billing, he's not in the picture at all! It's an ignominious end to the series, but it's still nice to have it on DVD.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - P&S|
|Original Aspect Ratio||no|
Image Transfer Review: The films are substantially cropped on the sides, resulting in damaged framing of the picture. In quite a few spots, characters are cut in half on the sides, or small portions of heads deliver lines from obscurity. The black and white photography generally looks pretty good, with decent greyscale for the most part. Aliasing is a frequent problem throughout. The first and third pictures are in good condition, but Invisible Dr. Mabuse has quite a few rough patches with damage and scratches. It does, however, have pretty good detail and texture. Death Ray looks very soft, as if it may have been derived from a video source.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: These are the English dubs only, which is too bad. All three films have mild to moderate hiss, noise and crackle, which isn't surprising for cheaply-dubbed 1960s pictures. All three have snazzy Euro jazz scores that sound reasonably good.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 42 cues and remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsWhile there are some problems with the source materials, including the use of pan-and-scan dubbed TV prints, there's no denying Retromedia provides good value for the price. At least one of the three pictures is very good, and another is at least watchable.
Mark Zimmer 2007-02-22