Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler is often thought of as the place where the director's filmmaking aesthetic springs full-grown to the screen. He had experimented with different aspects of visual style in his earlier works, but it is on this epic -- some four hours long in its original release -- that Lang pulled all of these elements together into the hyper-expressionist style that was identifiable as his. The first of three adaptations of the Norbert Jacques' novels by the renowned director, the film also provided Lang's wife and screenwriter Thea Von Harbou a canvas on which to explore and expand her own work. The subject matter, a cat-and-mouse game between a master criminal (with considerable scientific -- or, more properly, pseudo-scientific) knowledge at his disposal, and a top law enforcement official, was intrinsically absorbing in Lang's hands, especially as these characters were portrayed by Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Bernhard Goetzke; their duel would go on to influence the plots of comic books and feature films for a generation to come and longer, right into the twenty-first century in the form of the James Bond movies. As for Lang, his next career jump would be the Niebelung adaptations, in two epic-length movies that were even more stylized visually.
by Bruce Eder review