Dr Mabuse, der Spieler
You may be aware of Metropolis, the famous Fritz Lang directed film of the 1920s. It famously was cut down for its original release, making the story somewhat incoherent. The missing sections had remained lost – until now, when a bad print in an archive in Argentina was discovered as having far more footage than the standard version. So it was all tidied up and re-released. My beloved and I went to see it on its opening night in Dublin, where it was playing in the National Concert Hall, with a full orchestral accompaniment.
Earlier that day, however, we went to another Fritz Lang film. The IFI was cashing in on the whole Metropolis thing by showing a whole season of the great German director's work. The film we saw that afternoon was the first Dr Mabuse film, a four-hour marathon that introduced the criminal mastermind and his devilish schemes. It is a truly amazing film, with great performances from the guy playing Mabuse and his various minions. One thing I particularly liked was how convincing Dr Mabuse's status as a master of disguise was – he was almost too good at disguising himself, with the result that a succession of scenes had me going "Who is this guy? Why is the camera taking such an interest in him? Maybe he is going to be Dr Mabuse's latest victim… no wait!". The music was also great too, played on strings that gave the whole thing the surreal and semi-nightmarish air the film warrants.
And then Metropolis. The missing bits do make the film a bit more coherent, but there is still the fundamental problem with this film – it looks amazing, but the plot is kind of ridiculous. And the film's reactionary message is rather suckass too. For all its iconic status (and it is a film everyone should see at least once in their life), it is far more about the spectacle than the plot or characterisation. So I suppose that makes it a rather typical member of the Science Fiction film family.
I should mention that I was seated next to The World's Most Annoying Man for this film, a fidgety fucker who could not sit still and had no concept of personal space. My beloved dubbed him Ritalin Man, and his muttering away to himself during the short piece about the film's restoration before it began presaged much of the horror that was to come. Oddly, he seemed to actually like the picture, but in a way that meant he could not sit still or shut his yap. I was rather glad that he did not return after the interval. I'm guessing he ended up in a fidget bar somewhere on the other side of town.
Dr Mabuse image source
widely reproduced Metropolis image
An inuit panda production