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During the 1960s Germany, criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse is using hypnotized victims and the surveillance equipment of a Nazi-era bugged hotel to steal nuclear technology from a visiting American industrialist.
An altruistic department-store owner hires ex-convicts in order to give them a second chance at life. Unfortunately, one of the convicts he hires recruits two of his fellow ex-convicts in a plan to rob the store.
Haghi is a criminal mastermind whose ubiquitous spy operation is always several steps ahead of the police and the government's secret service. Enter Agent 326, the daring and dashing young man, who thinks his disguise as a dirty, bearded vagrant is fooling the unknown mastermind and his minions. But Haghi is well aware of 326's existence and what he looks like. Enter Sonya, a Russian lady in Haghi's employ. Haghi wants Sonya to subvert the efforts of the government agent, but doesn't count on her falling in love with him. Meanwhile, Haghi is anxious to get his hands on a Japanese peace treaty in the possession of the cunning Doctor Masimoto, whose mistress is also in his employ. Written by
UFA insisted on the film being made inexpensively, as Fritz Lang's previous film Metropolis (1927) had brought the studio to near bankruptcy. Lang therefore chose to do most of the shots in narrow settings with lots of close-ups, as no big sets had to be built up for that way of filming. Fortunately "Spione" became a huge success. See more »
Dazzling Lang spy film prototype: I never felt the time passing
Freqently throughout its 146 minutes, I found myself thinking: now where have I seen that before? Because, clearly, Alfred Hitchcock studied this 'zinger' carefully before making "The 39 Steps": not only that, but I suspect he also incorporated elements of it in at least half a dozen other of his British films.
146 minutes, I said, but, while some of the early scenes in the first hour or so are somewhat repetitive, and studio-bound, once Lang cranks up the suspense,....and this is where the influences for Hitchcock were plain to see,.....you really had to hang on to your seat.
The plot, despite its labyrinthine twists and turns, is 'yer common-or-garden Dr Mabuse, mad evil genius type' set for World domination. Of course it does have an endearing,....(yes '39 Steps'again),.... romantic sideline, which doesn't at all detract from the pacing or suspense.
But this isn't "The Magic Mountain"..nor even 'M' with its deeper psychological overtones..you're not meant to delve deeply into it: its pure hokum, meant for enjoyment
There are some dazzling scenes: the dance/boxing-ring; the climactic 'race against time' scenes in the bank; .....ahem,.........the 'literally', breakneck-paced train scenes; that truly surreal, but riveting, ending.
And, of course,Rudolf Klein Rogge, as ever, enjoys himself as the Mabuse-like,Haghi.
The film features some wonderfully Expressionistic lighting by Fritz Arno Wagner; much-to-admire 'Art-Deco' like sets; my stunning 'Masters Of Cinema' DVD features a glorious score,....and I'm sure I detected Rachmaninov clips in among its most romantic moments.
But, above all,it was a most assured job of direction by Lang.
And I can't wait to watch it again!
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