Dr Mabuse, the Gambler, from the novel by Norbert Jacques, is a good average popular thriller – dime novel stuff in a $100,000 setting – but sufficiently well camouflaged to get by a with a class audience.
The story builds itself about the character of Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), the great gambler, the player with the souls of men and women. He runs an underground counterfeiting establishment, and with this money starts all his enterprises. In the first reel of the film he appears as a stock exchange speculator, stealing an important commercial treaty.
To get money out of a rich young man he sets Carozza (Aud Egede-Nissen), a dancer, on his trail; then hypnotizing him, he wins large sums of money from him at his club. Mabuse meets Countess Told (Gertrude Welcker) and desires her. He fixes the mark of cheating at cards on her husband, and in the ensuing excitement steals her away.
And so it goes on, a bit confusedly but generally with speed and life. The best moments are achieved by the conflict between Mabuse and the attorney, Von Wenk (Bernhard Goetzke), who is trying to uncover him. The first part [Der Grosse Spieler, 120 mins.] ends with the stealing of the countess and the second [Inferno, 122 mins.] with the finding of Mabuse, insane, in his own counterfeiting cellar, where he has been trapped by Von Wenk.
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The film is somewhat hurt by the casting of Klein-Rogge for the title role; he is physically too small and not a clever enough actor to make one forget this. Paul Richter as a millionaire and Goetzke as Von Wenk do very nicely. And the Carozza of Egede-Nissen and the countess of Welcker are fine pieces of film work.
The interiors of Stahl-Urach and Otto Hunte are sumptuous and tasteful, and Carl Hoffmann’s photography generally adequate. The direction of Fritz Lang has moments – but Lang somewhat negates his good technical effects by twenty forty-word captions of a ludicrous unconciseness.
[Two-part pic was released in the US in 1927 in a single 63-min. version, with florid intertitles in poor English.]