The Testament of Dr. Mabuse  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse), also called The Last Will of Dr. Mabuse, is a 1933 German crime-thriller film directed by Fritz Lang. The movie is a sequel to Lang's silent film Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (1922) and features many cast and crew members from Lang's previous films. The film features Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Dr. Mabuse who is in an insane asylum where he is found frantically writing his crime plans. When Mabuse's criminal plans begin to be implemented, Inspector Lohmann (played by Otto Wernicke) tries to find the solution with clues from gangster Thomas Kent (Gustav Diessl), the institutionalized Hofmeister (Karl Meixner) and Professor Baum (Oscar Beregi Sr.) who becomes obsessed with Dr. Mabuse.

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse was based on elements of author Norbert Jacques' unfinished novel Mabuse's Colony. It was Lang's second sound film for Nero-Film and was his final collaboration with his wife and screenwriter Thea von Harbou. To promote the film to a foreign market, a French-language version of the film was made by Lang with the same sets but different actors with the title Le Testament du Dr. Mabuse.

According to Siegfried Kracauer, Lang deliberately intended to film to suggest the Mabuse-like qualities of Adolf Hitler, who was on his rise to become Chancellor of Germany while the film was being written. When Hitler came to power, Joseph Goebbels became Minister of Propaganda and banned the film in Germany, suggesting that the film would undermine the audience's confidence in its statesmen. The French-language and German-language versions of the film were released in Europe while several versions of the film were released in the United States to mixed reception with each re-release. The sequel The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960) was also directed by Lang. Modern reception of the film is favorable with critics, while the film has influenced filmmakers including Claude Chabrol and Artur Brauner.


In a noisy print shop, a disgraced police detective named Hofmeister (Karl Meixner) escapes from pursuing criminals' attacks. Hofmeister telephones his former superior Inspector Karl Lohmann (Otto Wernicke) and explains frantically that he has discovered a huge criminal conspiracy. Before he can disclose the identity of the responsible criminal, the lights go out, shots are fired, and Hofmeister becomes mad. Hofmeister vanishes only to be found later singing every time he feels watched, and he is institutionalized at the asylum run by Professor Baum (Oscar Beregi, Sr.).

Professor Baum introduces the case of Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), the criminal mastermind and hypnotist who ten years earlier went mad. Mabuse spends his days frantically writing detailed plans for crimes while a criminal gang is committing them according to "the plans of the Doctor", with whom they confer only from behind a curtain. When Baum's colleague Dr. Kramm (Theodor Loos) by chance discovers that recent crimes implement Mabuse's writings, Kramm is shot by the gang's execution squad, Hardy (Rudolf Schündler) and Bredow (Oskar Höcker). A clue scratched in a glass window pane at Hofmeister's crime scene causes Lohmann to suspect Mabuse. On arrival at the asylum, Baum reveals that Mabuse has died. When Lohmann disparagingly talks about "Mabuse the criminal", Baum emphatically speaks about "Mabuse the genius", whose brilliance would have destroyed a corrupt world.

Baum continues to study Mabuse's writings and communes with the ghost of Dr. Mabuse. The spirit of Mabuse speaks about an "unlimited reign of crime" and merges with the Professor's silhouette. During the same night, a hidden figure confers with sections of his organisation, preparing various crimes such as an attack on a chemical plant, robbing a bank, counterfeiting, poisoning water and destroying harvests. One of the gang members, Thomas Kent (Gustav Diesel), is conflicted between his criminal work, which he needs to do for money, and his affection for a young woman named Lilli (Wera Liessem). Lilli, devoted to Kent, begs him to confide in her. Kent finally confesses his past and his current situation to her. The two decide to inform the police but are abducted and locked in the strange meeting room with the curtain. The hidden figure announces their death when they discover that the curtained alcove contains only a loudspeaker and that there is a time bomb. After several escape attempts have failed, they flood the place to lessen the impact of the explosion and break free when the time bomb goes off.

Meanwhile, the police are besieging a flat where several gangsters, including Hardy and Bredow, are staying. After a shootout, Hardy commits suicide while the other gangsters surrender. As Bredow testifies that they assassinated Dr. Kramm in the vicinity of the asylum, Lohmann arranges a confrontation between the gangsters and the Professor, which proves inconclusive. On Kent and Lilli's arrival, Baum's shocked reaction to Kent makes Lohmann suspicious. Lohmann and Kent visit the asylum, where they discover that Baum is the mastermind and has planned an attack on a chemical plant that night. Lohmann and Kent go to the exploding plant, where they discover Baum watching from afar. Baum flees to the asylum with Lohmann and Kent pursuing. Mabuse's spirit leads Baum to Hofmeister in his cell where he introduces himself as Dr. Mabuse, ending Hofmeister's shock. Baum tries to kill Hofmeister but is stopped by guards, just as Lohmann and Kent arrive. The final scene shows the insane Baum in the cell, tearing Mabuse's writings to shreds.


Template:Col-2Template:Col-2Template:Col-endCast notes:
  • Wernicke reprises the character Inspector Lohman, a role he first played a year earlier in Lang's film, M.

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