The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse is Fritz Lang’s final film, the last entry in one of the most impressive careers of any filmmaker who ever walked the earth. It’s also the final film in his “Mabuse trilogy,” which all work as stand-alone films in their own right. This film, however, would spawn a string of sequels featuring the greatest metaphysical villain of them all!
It’s an endlessly fascinating film, although easily the weakest film of the trilogy. But then again, it’s hard to top the previous two, which were made all the way back in 1922 and 1933. A reporter is found dead and the police are drawn to the strange Luxor, which seems to be a hotbed for strangeness and linked to unsolved murders. The labyrinthian plot includes everything from Nazi-made surveillance equipment, an evil club-footed husband, an American industrialist, suicide and even some proto-psychedelia.
Lang directs with trademark precision, although at times the story is a little messy, which is a real rarity for him. It’s a little too convoluted at times, and could probably have used extra time to even out some of the plot: the 1923 Mabuse film comes in at around a mammoth fve hours. This film was actually loosely based on the Esperanto(!) novel Mr. Tot Aĉetas Mil Okulojn, but Lang and his screenwriting partner Heinz Oskar Wuttig added Dr. Mabuse into the mix. It’s still a film with plenty of ideas, even if not all of them totally stick, and a wild thriller that points out a direction for thrillers to go in the next decade. That’s what should be expected from the man who basically invented the modern thriller in his silent films.
Fans of the Mabuse films have long been clamouring for The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse to get Blu-Ray treatment from Masters of Cinema. They released Lang’s Mabuse Trilogy on DVD in a lavish boxset years ago, so now you can finally sell that set. The extras on the disc are the previous commentary track by film historian David Kalat, the alternative ending of the French version for the film and an interview with one of the stars, Wolfgang Preiss. The new booklet includes the previous essay from David Cairns, but also a new one from Philip Kemp and some archival essays from Lotte Eisner, including one on Lang’s unmade films.