A television reporter about to broadcast his findings on shady international dealings has suffered a heart attack on the way to the studio, but Inspector Kras (Gert Fröbe) has heard differently from a blind clairvoyant known as Mr Cornelius (Wolfgang Preiss) who predicted the reporter's death. When the Inspector discovers he did not suffer heart failure but was shot with a small needle straight into his brain, his suspicions are naturally aroused, but he can get no further in a case which has the police baffled. Meanwhile, rich industrialist and owner of a string of nuclear power stations across the world Henry B. Travers (Peter van Eyck) is in town as well, and present in a hotel where there is a commotion...
That commotion saw Dawn Addams as a mental patient called Marion Menil try to take her own life by jumping off the ledge on one of the hotel's higher floors, but the gallant Travers talks her down, in this, Fritz Lang's last film as director having returned to his German home. His eyesight was failing by this point, and coupled with his well-earned reputation for being difficult to work with it made him far from a safe bet to make another movie; he did live another sixteen years, happy to give an opinion or reminisce about his career throughout that time, but you got the impression he would have loved to get back behind the camera and make a movie his way. As it was, this return to the character who had made his name back in the nineteen-twenties was a fair-sized hit to go out on.
So well-received by audiences was it that it sparked a revival of interest in the Dr. Mabuse character, a villain whose mastery of criminality made him sort of the Germanic Fu Manchu, an insidious figure whose tentacles spread throughout the world and whose influence can be seen anywhere from the James Bond series to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Although Lang was unable to capitalise on the success of this continuation of the story, it spawned a new franchise, with some of the actors returning to reprise their roles, including the one who played the bad guy. To say more would spoil the surprises, since there was a mystery element to the film where we had to guess the identity of Mabuse among a selection of candidates, just as Kras has to wrack his brains to come up with clues.
One of the cast was performing a dual role just to muddy the waters further still, hinting at a playful quality you didn't often associate with Lang, yet unfortunately something else you didn't associate with him was the peculiarly flat look to the imagery, as if we were watching an episode of a television show like Danger Man and Patrick McGoohan was about to appear at any minute. If you can put that lack of visual pizzazz to one side, even then the plot took its own sweet while to pick up the pace, in spite of that opening which arrestingly saw Mabuse lackey Howard Vernon firing that needle into his latest victim from a passing car. It did thankfully become more engrossing the closer to the action-packed finale we grew, but too often it seemed as though Lang was too stuck in the beginnings of his career to really bring excitement to a new decade of film.
A decade which would see great upheaval in the world's film industries, lest we forget, and whatever the hit The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse was in 1960 it looks a tad creaky now when the James Bond entries of a few short years later managed to appear far more dynamic. Nevertheless, the Mabuse character has been periodically returned to down the years - even big fan Claude Chabrol made one - because the paranoia he represents has not gone out of fashion, far from it. Lang was influenced by the Nazis who forced him to leave his home country, but Mabuse came to symbolise what would soon be recognised as terrorism as he continues to orchestrate his minions seemingly from beyond the grave - the plot picked up from the previous Lang effort in the story back in the thirties. With its trappings of the burgeoning spy genre, including a hotel where every room is under secret surveillance and assassins lurking where you least expect them, here was a work stuck in the past yet oddly prescient, making for a result truly on the cusp of something new. Music by Bert Grund.
Tyrannical, monocle-sporting, Austrian-born director who first became established in Germany, significantly due to his second wife Thea von Harbou who wrote many of his scripts for him including famous silents Dr Mabuse the Gambler, the two-part Die Niebelungen, revolutionary sci-fi Metropolis, Spione and Lang's first sound effort, the celebrated M (which catapulted Peter Lorre to fame).
He had caught the interest of the Nazis by this time, so after another couple of Dr Mabuse films he decided to flee the country rather than work for them (von Harbou stayed behind), and arrived in America. There he was quickly snapped up by Hollywood producers to create a string of memorable thrillers, such as Fury, You Only Live Once, Man Hunt, and the World War II-themed Hangmen Also Die, which fed into a talent for film noir he took advantage of in the forties. Some of these were Ministry of Fear, Scarlet Street, The Woman in the Window and Secret Behind the Door, noirish Western Rancho Notorious and The Big Heat. After the fifties and one final Mabuse film, Lang had difficulty getting work due to his bad-tempered reputation and increasing blindness, but stayed a personality in the movie world right up to his death.