by Philip Concannon
When Fritz Lang’s Dr Mabuse: The Gambler was released in 1922, one promotional poster carried the question “Who is Dr Mabuse?” alongside pictures of six very different-looking men. Of course, the truth is that all six men are Dr Mabuse, and the film opens with the title character turning over photographs like playing cards, as he ponders which of his many disguises to adopt. The question lingers on over the three films Lang made about Mabuse – who is he? The answer is he is many things at once. Mabuse was cinema’s first supervillain, he was a metaphor for the rot at the heart of Germany, he was an allegory for Nazi rule and he was the character who first helped to elevate Lang’s status as a director and a decade later provoked his flight from his homeland.