Sunday, May 22, 2011
THE VENGEANCE OF DR. MABUSE (1972)
After a small Franco binge I now present some thoughts on Dr. M schlägt zu (1972) a.k.a. THE VENGEANCE OF DR. MABUSE. From what I can find out this was the last entry in the revival series of Mabuse films started when Lang was induced to crank out the brilliant 1000 EYES OF DR. MABUSE in 1960. Much like the Fu Manchu films of the same period it was left to Franco to slam the door shut in such a way as to make it pointless to make another for years to come.
Everyone’s favorite wooden Indian, Jack Taylor, plays Mabuse or Farkus or whatever damned name the dub you come across labels him. Holed up in a sinisterly lit lab consisting of one room with some random computer-like objects and a basement hallway with a few makeshift cells Mabuse/Farkus plots to……uuuhhh…...he uuuhhhh..... I can’t actually remember what exactly he was trying to accomplish but it involves sending out his butch lesbian helper and his monstrous creature Andros to kidnap gorgeous women to make their fathers or husbands do something or another. I think it had something to do with building a death ray but don’t quote me! And, of course, there is a character named Orloff that figures in the tale but don’t get too attached to him.
Anyway- we have the Bad Doctor Mabuse/Farkus assembling his victims at the same time we watch the local sheriff and his deputy lackadaisically investigate the disappearance of the women that are being carted off. The film seems to be set in the desert Southwest of the United States with several mentions of escaping over the border to Mexico tossed around. This is made almost believable visually with some clever framing to crop out obvious European locales but I have no idea what ocean they are near. Is it supposed to be the Pacific? If so, the coast is way wrong… what am I doing? It doesn’t matter – we’re in Franco Land! At the edge of this (inland ?) sea there are several supposedly touching scenes of a disconsolate and depressed Andros dumping the occasional corpse and weeping like a big wuss. Poor guy. I can understand. I often fall in love with the helpless prisoners my overbearing boss makes me kill too.
The strangest element of this strange movie is the two policemen. They are dressed like they stepped off the set of a TV western although they drive a crappy, overheating sedan and don’t seem to carry guns. I wonder if the cowboy sheriff character was a nod to the McCloud TV character or if Franco just had them dress that way for no good reason at all. Did Franco ever make a western?
Much time is wasted in THE VENGEANCE OF DR. MABUSE watching the police fail to figure anything out as the evil master plan that makes little sense implodes in the usual way that poorly thought out death ray plans do. As was typical during this period of his career Franco manages to conjure an OK story with very, very little in the way of resources. I think there may have been four separate interiors, a couple of other outdoor locations and a couple of cars used. All of Jack Taylor’s scenes could have been filmed in one or two days as he never leaves the lab set and no one seems to have more than two sets of clothes. This is low budget, something outta nothing filmmaking at its…..finest, I guess. If you can get into the mood and get a kick out of the slightly sleazy Mad Scientist pulp story he is telling it can be a good time for the 80 minute length chug. You have to be willing to forgive it the usual sloppiness- day shots colliding with night shots in the same scene; the shadow of the camera and Franco as cameraman creeping into frame; pointless gibberish for dialog; etc.- but if you are aware of what to expect it’s not bad. It’s not too good either, but I kind of got a kick out of it.