The last films of great directors are rarely a testament to their previous careers. Hitchcock’s ‘Family Plot’ in 1976 had it moments with its dual plotlines converging but would be his last film before he died in 1980. Hitchcock had been influenced by Fritz Lang whose last film would be The Thousand Eyes of Doctor Mabuse and could be seen as the final part of a trilogy he had started nearly forty years earlier but was still amongst his best works such as ‘Cloak and Dagger‘ & ‘Human Desire‘
The film finds that diabolical Weimar name resurfacing in the Cold War era linked to a new methodology of murder and mayhem. Seances, assassinations and Nazi engineered surveillance technology which was in keeping with Lang’s themes of paranoia in a complex plot. It offered a glimpse in sex crime, youth culture and even LSD. Starring Wolfgang Preiss in the lead role the film also had German actor Gert Frobe who, within a few years, would go on to star as Goldfinger to Connery’s James Bond.
Lang’s last great Hollywood film was ‘The Big Heat’ in 1953 and subsequent films declined in quality and his two extravagant ‘Indian’ films made towards the end of the decade were, in retrospect, an embarrassment with browned up Europeans and Americans playing Indans. Lang returned to the Mabuse character from his 1922 film with a plot involving a hotel wired up for surveillance (hence the 1000 eyes) and had been inspired by a Nazi building that was never finished when the war ended. Like the hotel many of the characters were not as they first appeared and its worth looking closely at the actors who in some cases are playing two roles. On its release The Thousand Eyes of Doctor Mabuse was dismissed by critics but audiences disagreed and it was beloved by French critics. Despite this it was six years before the film was released in the US and went largely unnoticed despite being dubbed into English.
Lang had returned to Germany to make his final films and after The Thousand Eyes of Doctor Mabuse and possibly due to his failing eyesight Lang would not direct another film until he died 16 years later in 1976. Respected as he was for his work Lang had not been a particularly well liked director primarily due to his alleged behaviour on the set of his 1927 masterpiece, ‘Metropolis’ but he still returned to Hollywood where he had been toying with the idea of somehow making another film about hippy’s even though by then he was pretty much blind.
The Thousand Eyes of Doctor Mabuse is now released on blu ray for the first time and the disc has a bunch of decent extras including an alternate ending, an optional English soundtrack which was approved by Lang himself. Added to this is a audio commentary and an interview with Preiss himself about the film as well as a collectors booklet with an essay on the film with some fascinating insights behind the scenes.
Here the trailer for The Thousand Eyes of Doctor Mabuse…….
THE THOUSAND EYES OF DOCTOR MABUSE IS ON BLU RAY FROM 11TH MAY 2020