walter schulze-mittendorff bio 16

Walter Schulze-Mittendorff

16. ,Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse‘ - The Last Film
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The last common film, ‚Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse’ (,The Testament Of Doctor Mabuse‘), is also Fritz Lang’s last film before he leaves Germany in 1933.

Walter Schulze-Mittendorff
Model for the mask of ‚Dr. Mabuse’

Because the source of this bane – a brain producing morbid  thoughts – is veiled, the actors in the operation come to believe that the crime unfolds as if it were arising from a hazy fog, ungraspable, and that it would ultimately cover the earth like a curse.
The testament of Dr. Mabuse is the terrible plan to establish the „empire of crime“: 
„Humanity’s soul must be shaken to its very depths, frightened by unfathomable and seemingly senseless crimes. Crimes that benefit no one, whose only objective is to inspire fear and terror. Because the ultimate purpose of crime is to establish the endless empire of crime – a state of complete insecurity and anarchy, founded upon the tainted ideals of a world doomed to annihilation. When humanity, subjugated by the terror of crime, has been driven insane by fear and horror, and when chaos has become supreme law – then the time will have come for the empire of crime.”
In the end Dr. Mabuse leaves more than just his testament for the head of the clinic. His ghost enters into the clinic’s director, and Professor Baum’s spirit finally turns completely into Dr. Mabuse. The survival of the crime is guaranteed here by the transfer of identity.

Some of the films of Fritz Lang seem like the proverbial writing on the wall, a warning sign, in view of the times that lie ahead. This is certainly the case for this last film from Lang’s creative period in the Weimarer Republik. It seems ‚The Testament of Dr. Mabuse’ draws a direct connecting line from the end of the First World War, which had brought the chaos, to the end of the Weimarer Republik when it was firmly established. Clear minds are able to see the consequences: the inescapability of a reign of terror.
The message of this film, Dr. Mabuse’s testament, is no longer just fiction here; the truth that it holds mirrors the reality. With one big bang all hope of an escape is cancelled out. From the 30th of January, 1933 the National Socialists are able to establish their rulership in the state, an empire of crime. Crimes can only flourish as long as they are obscured and denied; exposure and bringing them to awareness is their greatest enemy. On March 29, 1933, the new National Socialist Reichspropagandaminister Dr. Joseph Goebbels bans the film’s release. An era of freedom of spirit, of creative expression, and of the hopes for a practised humanity, is ended. Like a mycelium the new powers penetrate the feeble human spirit and those who do not flee, those who will stay but will not be infected by it all, better lay low.

„The sculptor Schulze-Mittendorf bends over the corpse of Dr. Mabuse and molds the peace of death on Klein-Rogge’s face. His applicator, soaked with plasticine, moves across the chin, the cheeks, and over the sharp hump of the nose. In the shining of the light cones surrounding Dr. Mabuse’s deathbed, „the facade keeps flaking off the corpse“ as the artist comments.“
(See newspaper article below)

Walter Schulze-Mittendorff as actor in the scene of Professor Baum’s lecture.
(Film still: courtesy of Anthea Film)

 ‚Tempo’ Nr. 280, supplement, November 1932

Like many of Fritz Lang's films, 'Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse' shows the deep seated and apparently uncontrollable abyss of the human drives which are ever so seductive to those that come into contact with them. Dr. Mabuse is an inmate of a lunatic asylum and he suffers from a madness which is as dangerous to the extreme, as it is contagious. He appears as the incarnation of bane and as such is deemed to be insane; a sick brain devising crimes, and developing a great suggestive power in the process. His doctor, and also head of the clinic, is Professor Braun. Braun is obsessed with his patient and eventually becomes his tool in setting up a robbing and murdering, terror spreading organisation. Dr. Mabuse has an eery influence over Professor Braun to this effect, as the latter will secretly carry out the criminal thoughts of Mabuse, seemingly always concealed from behind a curtain.
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