The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960) Review

The legendary Fritz Lang is responsible for some of the most important movies in cinema history. Metropolis has influenced Sci-Fi cinema since its 1927 release and M is perhaps the blueprint for all serial killer movies that came afterwards.

Amongst his 40 year career as a director Lang made a trilogy of movies around one character, the evil Dr. Mabuse. A criminal mastermind with mystical powers Mabuse used hypnosis and high tech machines to manipulate people and gain money and power with the ultimate goal of taking over the world.

Using agents, lackeys and unwitting dupes Dr. Mabuse was always one step ahead of the law and his identity often changed suggesting he may in fact have been a otherworldly force inhabiting various bodies to achieve his nefarious aims.

The character who has featured in 15 films (the most recent being in 2014) was created by Norbert Jacques in the German novel Dr. Mabuse the Gambler and Lang’s first instalment of his series was a silent adaptation of this book made in 1922. The second film came in 1933, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse with a 30 year wait till the character reemerged in The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse which also happened to be Lang’s final movie.

Brought to Blu-ray for the brilliant Masters of Cinema Series this story features seances, shoot outs and car chases combining elements of classic spy stories with the supernatural shockers to craft a thriller pack full of twists and turns.

Opening with the assignation of a reporter in a traffic jam who is dispatched by a steel needle fired from a experimental military designed air gun the police start an investigation that leads cynical pipe smoking veteran Inspector Kras (Goldfinger and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang star Gert Fröbe) to the Luxor Hotel.

Outfitted by the Nazi’s to spy on guests in every room the Luxor houses a variety of peculiar characters that Kras instantly has his eye on. From the rich American industrialist Henry Travers (Peter van Eyck) staying in secret who saves suicidal and mentally unstable Marian Menil (Dawn Addams) to the over friendly insurance man Hieronymus B. Mistelzweig (Werner Peters) to the hotel staff themselves everyone becomes a suspect in an ever increasing mystery that stumps the authorities.

However one man alone seems to have all the answers, clairvoyant Peter Cornelius (Wolfgang Preiss) a blind psychic whose uncanny ability to predict future events leads Kras to call on him for assistance. Who is guilty, who will die and most importantly of all will anyone be able to stop Dr. Mabuse the shadowy figure behind the scenes pulling everyones strings.

Ripping a long at a sensational speed The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse feels much more modern that you would expect from a black and white thriller of this period.

Keeping Klaus and the audience guessing all the way till the frantic finale Lang expertly directs getting the most out of his actors and the action scenes balancing every element to craft a thoroughly entertaining experience.

With its paranoid plot line and punchy pacing The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse is a great thriller spiced up by its spooky themes which serves as not only a twisted tale of an iconic villain but also a true testament to Fritz Lang’s status as a cinematic auteur.

Movie Rating: ★★★★☆ 

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