Fritz Lang's sound film Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (The Testament of Dr. Mabuse) is screened in eight movie theaters in Vienna on Saturday evening, May 13, 1933. The UFA Ton Kino at Taborstrasse 8 shows the two-hour production by the Berlin Nero Film AG at 4:45, 7:00, and 9:10 p.m. Joseph Goebbels, the National Socialist propaganda minister, viewed the crime film on March 28, 1933, and demanded it be banned in Germany, which took place the following day. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse was a "danger to the state," according to the minutes of the censorship meeting, because the crimes it portrays could be used as a "textbook for preparing and committing acts of terrorism." The world premiere was thus held in Budapest on April 21 and the Austrian premiere in Vienna on May 12.
The testament of the title refers to written notes intended as a guide to major crimes.
Locked up in his cell, Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) fills page after page with detailed instructions, which his obsessed physician Professor Baum (Oskar Beregi), the director of the mental hospital, puts into practice. As the head of a criminal organization, he passes on Mabuse's commands by telephone to employees who never see his face. The orders are explained in a kind of control center—a windowless room with a curtain, behind which a figure is visible and a voice audible. In fact, however, the gang's leader is not in the room, but only a dummy and a table with a microphone and loudspeaker. To conceal his absences from the clinic, Baum installs another media apparatus. He links a gramophone to the door handle using a wire, so that every attempt to enter his office triggers a recording saying: "I do not want to be disturbed now."
"The dramatic conflict that appears to fascinate Fritz Lang time and again is the collision between the criminal imagination of inventive delinquents and the objective researcher's logic of the detective," the film critic Fritz Rosenfeld writes in the Vienna Arbeiter-Zeitung from Sunday, May 14, 1933. In The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, this conflict intensifies on the basis of characters featured in Lang's earlier works: the criminal psychologist from Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (1922) and the analytical inspector from M (1931). The psychopath Mabuse is insane and at the same time a genius; he writes logical plans for crimes with the sole purpose of causing chaos. Lohmann (Otto Wernicke), the police officer, on the other hand, attempts to create order by using his criminalistic intelligence, in other words establishing facts, analyzing photos, interrogating witnesses, etc.
In both cases, imagination is at play—as the inspector's controlled mental faculty and the psychopath's unbridled fantasies.
The UFA Ton Kino was opened in 1916 as the Central Kino. Located on the ground floor of the Central Hotel at Taborstrasse 8, it was not renamed until 1929 although the eponymous German Universum Film AG (UFA) had long held shares in the Vienna company. The movie theater had a capacity of around one thousand seats and was used for premieres of UFA productions. On the evening of May 13, 1933, the UFA Ton Kino shows the Ufa-Tonwoche newsreel before The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, reporting on the Nazi celebration for the "Day of National Work" in Berlin on May 1.
May 13, 1933 – 2 p.m.
May 14, 1933 – 2 p.m.
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