It was in 1922 and 1933 that director Fritz Lang released the first two parts of what would eventually become a trilogy, Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (Dr. Mabuse der Spieler) and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse), but it was not until 1960 that he would unexpectedly revisit the character with The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse).
His international reputation having been established in the late twenties and thirties with such films as the dystopian epic Metropolis, the science fiction exploration Woman on the Moon (Frau im Mond) and the thriller M, Lang had relocated to Hollywood where he made such films as The Woman in the Window and Cloak and Dagger before returning to his homeland for what would be his final films.
A tale of deception and double identities, of international espionage and murder, the trail leads to the Luxor Hotel where the beautiful but troubled Marion Menil (The Vampire Lovers‘ Dawn Addams) has threatened to jump from her room on the fourteenth floor but is rescued by the American businessman with whom she shares a window ledge, Henry Travers (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold‘s Peter van Eyck).
Also interested in the residents of the Luxor are Inspector Jochen Kras of the Homicide Squad (Goldfinger‘s Gert Fröbe), investigating the death of a television news reporter, and insurance salesman Hieronymus B Mistelzweig (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage‘s Werner Peters), both of whom have had contact with the psychic Peter Cornelius (The Boys from Brazil‘s Wolfgang Preiss) whose blind eyes may have seen parts of the case that Kras cannot.
Lang delighting in a game of misdirection, The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse refers not only to the secret surveillance centre in the basement of the Luxor, the cornerstone laid in May 1944 “when the Nazis believed in victory,” from where Dr. Mabuse sees all and conducts his ruthless games of manipulation, blackmail and assassination, but to the secrets within the film which require the viewer to observe everything and accept nothing as truth.
Remastered on Blu-ray by Eureka as part of their Masters of Cinema range, of great assistance in unravelling the mysteries is the ridiculously informative commentary provided by film scholar David Kalat, dissecting the film scene by scene with huge knowledge of Lang, the performers and creatives, the circumstances of the production and the politics of international film distribution and criticism in the sixties.
A stylish spy thriller of stolen prototype weapons which mixes in mysticism, hypnotism and séances, budgetary limitations mean The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse is not as expansive a production as the legendary Metropolis but the suites and lobbies of the Luxor are never less than impressive and Karl Löb’s monochrome photography captures the shadows which lurk in the brightly lit spaces and the hearts of the characters.
The disc also containing a 2002 interview with Wolfgang Preiss, recorded only three weeks before his death, he talks amiably about his career and his long association with the character of Dr. Mabuse, even appearing on the poster for a film he had no participation in, and of his friend Fritz Lang, “a marvellous technician and a marvellous director.”