Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933): Fritz Lang’s Sequel to his Seminal 1922 Film

From the Archives:

Fritz Lang directed The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (German: Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse, aka The Last Will of Dr. Mabuse), a seminal German crime-thriller with strong psychological and political overtones.

A sequel to Lang’s silent film Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (1922), the movie features some cast and crew members of Lang’s previous films.

When the tale begins, Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) is in  insane asylum, frantically writing his crime plans. When Mabuse’s ideas begin to be implemented, Inspector Lohmann (Otto Wernicke) tries to find solutions with clues offered by gangster Thomas Kent (Gustav Diessl), the institutionalized Hofmeister (Karl Meixner), and Professor Baum (Oscar Beregi Sr.) who becomes obsessed with Dr. Mabuse.

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse was based on elements of author Norbert Jacques’ unfinished novel Mabuse’s Colony.

Lang’s second sound film for Nero-Film, it was his final collaboration with screenwriter Thea von Harbou, then his wife.

To promote the film in foreign markets, a French version was made by Lang with the same sets but different actors.

Lang deliberately intended the film to suggest the Mabuse-like qualities of Hitler, who rose to become Chancellor of Germany when the film was written. When Hitler came to power, Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, banned the film in Germany, claiming it would undermine the audience’s confidence in its leader.

Another sequel, The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960) was also directed by Lang.

The film has influenced–and continues to influence–worldwide filmmakers, such as Claude Chabrol and Artur Brauner.

Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Dr. Mabuse
Otto Wernicke as Inspector Lohmann
Karl Meixner as Detective Hofmeister
Oscar Beregi Sr. as Professor Baum
Theodor Loos as Dr. Kramm
Gustav Diessl as Thomas Kent
Wera Liessem as Lilli
Rudolf Schündler as Hardy
Oskar Höcker as Bredow
Theo Lingen as Karetzki
Hadrian Maria Netto as Nicolai Griforiew
Camilla Spira as Juwelen-Anna
Georg John as Baum’s servant
Klaus Pohl as Müller, Lohmann’s assistant


TCM showed the film on October 1, 2021, enabling me to refresh my notes and thoughts about a feature I have not seen in decades.