Thursday, November 5, 2020

Taking a chance on 'Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler' at Town Hall Theatre on weekend of Nov. 14-15

Pick a card—or in this case, a headshot, each showing lead actor Rudolf Klein-Rogge in one of the title character's many disguises.

This month I'm taking a gamble by doing music for 'Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler,' the sprawling 1922 crime thriller in which German director Fritz Lang really hit his stride.

Why a gamble? Not because of the film, which is tremendous—some call it a masterpiece.

It's a gamble because I'm asking audiences to take a chance on a rarely screened foreign film from nearly a century ago which almost nobody today has heard of, and which runs 4½ hours. 

It's also a gamble because due to its length, we're running it in two installments: Part 1 on Saturday, Nov. 14 and Part 2 on Sunday, Nov. 15. Both screenings start at 2 p.m.

So I'm asking would-be attendees to basically give up a weekend to immerse themselves in the twisted world of 'Dr. Mabuse.' 

(Which, by the way, I'm told is pronounced "mah-BOO-zeh," which I didn't realize until now. I lead a sheltered life.)

 And all this in the middle of a pandemic that's keeping people away from theaters in droves.

Talk about rolling the dice! 

Rudolf Klein-Rogge, left, as criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse.

But in the spirit of Dr. Mabuse, whose LinkedIn page (if he had one) would include "hypnotism and mind control" among his skills, I am attempting to will audience members to attend.

Look into my eyes. You're feeling sleepy. Verrrrrry sleepy. 

You will attend. You must attend. And you will bring many friends.

Did it work? We'll find out on Saturday, Nov. 14 at 2 p.m., when I accompany Part 1 of 'Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler' to a packed house at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H.

And it's also a gamble because I'm in the process of developing completely new and original musical material for 'Dr. Mabuse,' which I will use to create an improvised score in real time.

Better hypnotize myself while I'm at it!

For more about the film and our two-part screening, here's the press release. Hope to see you there for this rare chance to see an early cinematic masterpiece in two back-to-back screenings.

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Dr. Mabuse preparing for his next adventure.

Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler: 2 Parts Over 2 Days Nov. 14/15

Epic two-part thriller 'Dr. Mabuse' to screen at Town Hall Theatre Nov. 14-15

Pioneering silent drama about criminal mastermind presented over two days with live music

WILTON, N.H.—It's a film so big, it takes two days to show it all.

It's 'Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler,' a landmark crime thriller that pushed the boundaries of cinema and story-telling when it hit theaters in 1922.

The rarely screened early masterpiece from German director Fritz Lang will be presented in two parts over two days at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre: Part 1 on Saturday, Nov. 14 at 2 p.m., and Part 2 on Sunday, Nov. 15 at 2 p.m.

Admission for both screenings is free and open to all; a donation of $10 per person is suggested to support the Town Hall Theatre's silent film series.

An original score for both parts will be performed live by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis of Bedford, N.H.

The Town Hall Theatre is observing procedures to comply with all state and CDC public health guidelines, including reduced seating capacity. For complete information about safety protocols, visit

'Dr. Mabuse' was a daring project by director Fritz Lang, who would later helm 'Metropolis' (1927) and a host of early screen classics, including two sequels to the Mabuse story.

Based on a contemporary novel by Norbert Jacques, 'Dr. Mabuse' tells the story of a criminal mastermind who uses disguises and hypnosis to defraud and control his wealthy victims.

Oh, the places you'll go! An evening out with Dr. Mabuse.

Set in Germany after World War I, the movie aimed to capture the chaotic and unreal nature of life in Berlin at the time.

It also became the template for the criminal espionage film genre, with its atmosphere of intrigue, treachery and deceit among sophisticated high society.

'Dr. Mabuse' was created at a time when European cinema was not subject to now-accepted constraints of length or scope.

Lang's completed film, designed to be shown in two parts, runs an extraordinary 4½ hours.

The first part, 'The Great Gambler: A Picture of the Time,' introduces Dr. Mabuse and his criminal enterprises, which include extortion, stock market manipulation, and swindling the wealthy elite.

The second part, 'Inferno: A Game for the People of our Age,' continues the story, which includes assassination, a scene of mass hypnosis in a theater, a daring escape through sewers, and a melodramatic climax.

"This is filmmaking on a grand scale," said Rapsis, who has created new musical material to help bring Lang's sprawling story to life. "For movie fans, the rare chance to see Lang's ground-breaking film on the big screen with live music over two days, as he intended, is not to be missed."

'Dr. Mabuse' stars actor Rudolf Klein-Rogge in the title role. Klein-Rogge frequently collaborated with Lang, playing the iconic role of scientist Rotwang in 'Metropolis' and criminal mastermind Haghi in Lang's 'Spies' (1928).

During production, 'Dr. Mabuse' had its share of behind-the-scenes drama. Lang began an affair with screenwriter Thea von Harbou, who at the time was married to Klein-Rogge. Her separation from Klein-Rogge was amicable, however, and did not interfere with the film. Ultimately, Lang married von Harbou; the three then worked on several subsequent films.

Upon its release, critics hailed 'Dr. Mabuse' as an example of cinema's story-telling and artistic potential.

The Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung called the first part "the attempt to create an image of our chaotic times" and went on to state that it "will give people fifty or one hundred years from now an idea of an age that they could hardly comprehend without such a document."

Film-Kurier praised Klein-Rogge's "brilliant performance" and Lang's "sensitive yet experienced" direction.

'Dr. Mabuse' wasn't released in the United States until 1927, and then only in an edited-down two-hour version that proved unsuccessful.

Today, contemporary critics recognize the original 'Dr. Mabuse' as Lang's earliest masterpiece and a lasting achievement.

"Mabuse remains memorable for the darkly brooding atmosphere that Lang creates, a disturbing compound of hysteria and fatalistic passivity.”
– John Wakeman, World Film Directors Volume 1

Both parts of 'Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler' (1922) will be shown in separate screenings over two days at the Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton, N.H.

Part 1 will be screened on Saturday, Nov. 14 at 2 p.m., while Part 2 will run on Sunday, Nov. 15 at 2 p.m. Both screenings will feature live music by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis.

Admission is free for both screenings. A donation of $10 per person is suggested to support the Town Hall Theatre's silent film series.

For more info, call (603) 654-3456 or visit   

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