After enjoying fantastic success with Fritz Lang’s two-part “Indian Epic” in 1959, the German producer Artur Brauner signed the great director to direct one more film. The result would be the picture that, in closing the saga he began nearly forty years earlier, brought Lang’s career full-circle, and would come to represent his final celluloid testament — by extension: his final film masterpiece.
Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse [The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse] finds that diabolical Weimar name resurfacing in the Cold War era, linked now to the actions of a criminal gang whose methodology — executed by, among others, the bug-eyed “No. 12” (portrayed by Howard Vernon, of Melville’s Le Silence de la mer and Godard’s Alphaville) — resembles that of the same villainous mastermind who gripped Berlin with his menace in the years preceding Hitler. Séances, assassinations, and Nazi-engineered surveillance-tech — all abound in Lang’s paranoid, and ultimate, filmic labyrinth.
One of the great and cherished “last films” in the history of cinema, Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse provides a stylistic glimpse into the ’60s works on such subjects as sex-crime, youth-culture, and LSD that Lang would unfortunately never come to realise. Nonetheless: deemed “masterly … lively, spontaneous, thrilling” by Lotte Eisner, and described by Roger Greenspun as asking from its audience “both greater innocence and infinitely greater sophistication than most of us bring to the movies nowadays,” Lang’s final film remains an explosive, and definitive, closing statement. —Eureka Entertainment
Born in Vienna in 1890, Fritz Lang was brought up in Viennese middle-class comfort by his Roman Catholic father Anton and his Jewish mother Paula Schleisinger who both hoped that young Fritz would become an architect. But like so many middle-class children of the new century, Lang was fascinated by the pulp and fantasy literature of his day, the art world both in and outside Vienna and a potent new form of entertainment that invited artistic scrutiny and craftsmanship, the motion picture. Though the teenaged Lang attended school as his parents wished, he secretly haunted the cafe’s and cabarets of Vienna and intended to become a painter like his idols Klimt and Schile. At aged 21 Lang’s yearning took him to Paris where he lived in Bohemian splendor until the outbreak of W.W.I. Returning to Vienna, Lang enlisted in the Austrian army where he repeatedly saw combat, was wounded at least three times and decorated twice.
It was while on leave recuperating from one of these wounds… read more
For the final film of his long career it seems somehow appropriate that Lang should return to Germany for another Mabuse story. The first two episodes are some of his finest work and in this installment Lang cast Goldfinger himself, Gert Fröbe, as the Inspector investigating murders and mysterious activities at the Luxor Hotel. This smart and elaborate thriller is a fitting testament to a master director's talents...
Lang continues his partnership with Artur Brauner, revisiting the criminal mastermind that played such a big role in his German career, comes out with a sometimes confusing, stilted, but typically Langian spy thriller worthy enough to stand as the last gasp of an aging, blinding, master.
Lang's final film is one of his most underrated. Stylistically, it's some of his best work, even if it sadly lacks the strong resonance and political implications of the two previous Mabuse films. But what comes across most strongly is a vindicated sense of nostalgia for an old-school brand of thrills. Here's a swan song built for pure enjoyment. What can I say? The man went out on a high note.
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Maybe you see further than I can see, or maybe things just look differently. Maybe I'm nothing but a shadow on the wall. Maybe love's a tomb