Magazine article The New Yorker

Teutons of Fun

Magazine article The New Yorker

Teutons of Fun

Article excerpt

Adolf Hitler galvanized crowds with his spellbinding speeches and took charge of the burgeoning National Socialist Party in 1921. Later that year, the Viennese-born director Fritz Lang, working in Germany, filmed an epic crime drama, "Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler," which Kino has released on DVD in a splendid 270-minute restoration.

In this grand pulp adventure, set in a stylized city of labyrinthine slums and sumptuous pleasure palaces that suggests Berlin, Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) practices psychoanalysis as a front for his criminal gang and their spectacular schemes, which involve a counterfeiting ring, vast stock-market manipulations, fleecing and scamming at high-end gambling dens, and murders as needed. A master of disguises, Mabuse also makes use of his professional skills to ensnare his victims with hypnotic suggestion, taking exotic-sounding names like "Tsi-Nan-Fu" and "Melior" and imprinting them in their minds as idees fixes--just as Hitler did with such words as "Jews" and "Communists."

A self-proclaimed revolutionary overthrower of laws and faith, Mabuse boasts that his sole passion, indeed the only true human passion, is the will to power. Through Mabuse's eyes, Lang depicts Germany's chaotic decadence as easily manipulated by a ruthlessly imaginative criminal mastermind and captivating charlatan. …

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