Director: Fritz Lang
Year Released: 1922
Lang's early saga about purely evil Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) and how he funds his criminal enterprise, primarily through thievery and cheating at cards (he's able to hypnotize his opponents). As much as I admire Lang's ever-so-apparent gifts as a filmmaker, there are flaws to this that can't be brushed off: for one, at four-and-a-half hours long its welcome gets well worn out prior to the conclusion - the hubris of Lang and screenwriter Theta von Harbou is extraordinary - and could have been made much more efficiently without so much redundancy and ponderousness. Second, the character of Mabuse is so entirely despicable and gets away with things for four hours and twenty minutes (before the bland police catch him in the last ten and he succumbs to lunacy) it becomes a strain to even care much about his plotting and scheming: he lacks any remotely redeemable characteristics, his cohorts are one-dimensional shills and the "opposition" (Forces of Good) are weak and incompetent to stop him. With few identifiable, 'real' characters in this, it amounts to little more than an overblown metaphor for the corruption facing Germany at the time. For the record, I care little for the Mabuse films that would follow, and I fail to find Lang's apparent delight in seeing bad men do bad things to be worthy of this level of attention.