Cody, Robert, and Nat take time off from our beach reading to bring you a special bonus episode focusing on three films reflecting the European take on pulp fiction including DR. MABUSE, THE GAMBLER, JUDEX, and DANGER: DIABOLIK. It’s a podcast full of women in catsuits, master criminals at least two steps ahead of the authorities, corruption, debauchery, complicated criminal schemes, cocaine, gambling, ingenious burglaries, hypnotism and mind control, masters of disguise, stage magic, and masked avengers.
Of note, we’re skipping the enormous direct contributions by Louis Feuillade, known for the silent serials FANTOMAS, LES VAMPIRES, and JUDEX. Feuillade casts an enormous shadow over the whole genre with HBO’s IRMA VEP still showing that influence to this day.
Instead, we’re going to skip ahead to Fritz Lang in 1922.
DR. MABUSE THE GAMBLER is one of Fritz Lang’s first great works and a tremendous hit in Weimar Germany. Dr. Mabuse is a criminal genius, master of disguise, and master of hypnosis and mind control. His crimes range from petty gambling grifts all the way up to manipulating the stock market. It’s a film full of smoke filled gambling dens. And it represents the corruption that many Germans found themselves surrounded by and helpless to do anything about. Money being worthless in an age of hyper inflation and authorities similarly powerless to stop these crimes. The biggest compliment that one can give is that you can absolutely tell that this is the same filmmaker that would soon make METROPOLIS.
The rise of real life villains in the fascists of Germany and Italy perhaps interrupted the pulp initiative in Europe. Fritz Lang fled to America following THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE and M, and then World War II interrupted it further. Georges Franju returned to the serials of Feuillade with 1963’s JUDEX.
Based on the silent serial, JUDEX finds the titular character portrayed by magician Channing Pollock seeking justice on the corrupt rich banker Favraux (Michel Vitold). But the plan for justice is complicated by the innocence of the rich man’s daughter Jacqueline (Edith Scob) and the schemes of the governess Diana (Francine Bergé). JUDEX is a deliberate homage to a simpler time before two world wars, a great depression, and a collapse of France as a colonizer, when France was still a major world power and justice and happy endings were still to be expected. Albeit, women in cat suits were sexy then and now.
We’ve been to Germany and France and we’ll complete our cinematic tour of Europe with Mario Bava’s DANGER: DIABOLIK.
DANGER: DIABOLIK finds the arch-criminal Diabolik (John Phillip Law) and his girlfriend Eva (Marisa Mell) pulling off daring robberies right under the noses of the police. Sometimes even relying on the police’s complicated traps to enable their schemes. Pursued by the police and fellow criminals, DANGER: DIABOLIK is a product of its times, a mix of James Bond and the 1960s Batman, with a very clear anti-authoritarian streak.
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DR. MABUSE THE GAMBLER Discussion: 0:00 to 40:27
JUDEX Discussion 40:27 to 57:51
DANGER: DIABOLIK Discussion 57:51 to 1:30:47
Other Films and Future Bonus Eisodes: 1:30:47 to End
Later this month, we visit a cult favorite, 1984’s THE LAST STARFIGHTER. We hope to have Jim Lazkowski join us as well. We hope you’ll join us too.