The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, Fritz Lang (1933)

Years later, Lang returns to Mabuse. Now the evil genius is locked up in an asylum, but still scribbling brilliant criminal tactics on page after page. His physician collects these outpourings and puts them into motion to create an “empire of crime.” And so the movie was swiftly banned by the Nazis; they well understood what Lang probably, at this point, could only have intuited: the coming structure under which madmen would ejaculate insane orders and reasonable people would execute them. This is a far tighter movie than Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler, much shorter and more narratively efficient, but its final passages deliver an even stronger dose of anarchic carnival than its prequel.

I’m too blown away by these movies to say anything too smart about them. They’re dissertation-worthy. But I will point out this one thing. Mabuse never commits any crimes himself. He orders, influences, hypnotizes, bluffs, impersonates, represents, but never acts. As such he seems a perfect representative for how evil is conducted in our age: by proxy.

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