When a franchise has reached a certain point, it has to decide whether to reinvent itself or start all over again. The latter is exactly the case with The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, thirty years after Lang’s original. The usual line is to say that it is not up to Lang’s original, but that might make us miss something. Examined on its own, the film is a formulaic, though competently produced B-movie that has Mabuse-like crimes taking place again after many years. These years include those the evil doctor has spent in a mental hospital lost in some unreachable state of psychosis. That leaves the Inspector (Goldfinger’s Gert Frobe, under a different name than he was in Lang’s last film, The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse reviewed elsewhere on this site). Who is committing the crimes then? What is the key to the criminals’ movements? How did they get access to Mabuse’s private information on how to pull off these crimes?
The problem with the film is that the audience by virtue of what they have come to see is smarter than the characters on the screen. The film does not have the form of any of the Lang pictures, and that combination of predictability and duller visuals comes together to give us an average film. The anamorphically enhanced image is at 1.85 X 1 and is not bad, as the film elements are in good shape. However, it is still not as sharp or clear as it could be. Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono is used on the David Kalat audio commentary. Kalat owns the company who issued this DVD, All Day Entertainment, as well as being the author of the book The Strange Case of Dr. Mabuse. The other 1.0 tracks are the English and German soundtracks for the film. The German is in particularly bad shape, but is still better than the 1.0 on the butchered U.S. version of Lang’s 1932 Testament that appears in the supplement for completists. It may be bad, but you can tell from the camera work it is Lang.
Other extras include an essay by Kalat in a nicely produced booklet inside the DVD case, an archive of poster art and stills, new English subtitles, and a section about all the Mabuse films ever made. Some have trailers, while all have history information. The film results in a comparative curio, is not the worse remake of a film ever made, and will be of interest to genre fans at least. The extras on this DVD help justify checking the film out.