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The Testament of Dr. Mabuse: The Criterion Collection

In 1933 Fritz Lang directed his second film about the evil mastermind, Dr. Mabuse. This time he amps up the doctor's superhuman evil in a sensational crime thriller. Actor Rudolf Klein-Rogge returns as Mabuse. However, the Moriarty-like Napoleon of crime dies early in the storytelling. But even after death Dr. Mabuse still maintains ruthless hands-on control of his organization. From behind a curtain in a secret sealed chamber, his disembodied voice directs his lieutenants in jewel heists, a massive counterfeiting ring, arson, and murders such as a hit at a traffic intersection that will be imitated by later directors, including Lang himself. On the case of the mysterious and seemingly pointless crime wave sweeping Berlin is Inspector Lohmann (Otto Wernicke), who in Lang's crossover masterstroke still works from the same office he used when he pursued Peter Lorre's whistling child-killer in M. When the late doctor's nefarious writings parallel the details behind the crimes, it's up to Berlin's star detective to connect the most fragmented clues to a man whose corpse Lohmann sees in the morgue yet who still seems to control the men terrorizing the city. At the center of the mystery stands Dr. Baum (Oscar Beregi), who oversaw Mabuse's care in the asylum. In an effective set-piece of ghostly visual effects — the late Mabuse now a phantom with bug-like eyes and a bulging brain exposed where his cranium used to be — Mabuse's determined spirit infects Baum, swamping Baum's identity. The climax comes with a high-speed car chase that for decades remained the one to beat.

And Criterion's DVD comes with everything we love about Criterion — a great-looking restoration, good audio, and loads of worthy supplements topped by David Kalat's entertaining and erudite commentary track. Keep-case.
—Mark Bourne

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