Dr. Mabuse! Master of disguise and telepathic hypnosis! A man able to switch bodies through possession, usually using televisions! The leader of a society of crime! The king of blackmail! A Jess Franco villain if I’ve seen one!
Mabuse first appeared in Norbert Jacques’ 1921 novel Dr. Mabuse the Gambler which became a movie directed by Fritz Lang. A four hour long movie, it was released in two parts that were both box office successes: The Great Gambler: An Image of the Time and Inferno: A Game for the People of Our Age. Rudolf Klein-Rogge came back to work with Lang again to make the sequel, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (and Lang’s last movie would be The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse).
A series of German Mabuse films owed more to the Eurospy craze*, but now Jess is in the director’s chair and Mabuse wants to steal a moon rock, so let’s do this.
Mabuse and his accomplices also are stealing all sorts of things — and people — from the National Research Institute so that he can finally make his dream invention, a mind-control ray. So yeah, this is Dr. Orloff all over again or more to the point The Diabolical Dr. Z. Mabuse even mentions that he’s a rival of Dr. Orloff, so my dream of a Franco Cinematic Universe is closer to truth than fiction.
I love reading reviews of this, because those dosed by Franco love it and even enjoy its faults, while those flaws drive anyone non-Franco obsessed absolutely insane, upsetting them because this is a movie that has extended sunsets, nonsensical at best dialogue and heroes that are as inept as it gets.
*The Return of Doctor Mabuse, The Invisible Dr. Mabuse, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, Scotland Yard Hunts Dr. Mabuse and The Secret of Dr. Mabuse are the 60s Mabuse films that come before this. There were also other appearances of the character in The Image of Dorian Gray in the Yellow Press, Claude Chabrol’s Dr. M and three movies in the 2000s, Doctor Mabuse, Doctor Mabuse: Etiopomar and The Thousand and One Lives of Doctor Mabuse.