Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

A clash of titans: Dr. Mabuse vs. my colonoscopy

Dr. Mabuse vs. my Colonoscopy is not, to date, the title of any film in the Mabuse series. But my colonoscopy did clash with my plans to review the 1960s remake of Testament of Dr. Mabuse in this week’s column.

I’ve had colonoscopies before; after a certain age you get them at least every ten years, just to make sure nothing unspeakable is growing in the colon. Even so, I underestimated how distracting the prep period would be. There are different approaches to preparing the patient and clearing the colon; the one I used last time involved two days of liquid diet coupled with heavy laxatives. This time, it was four days of eating food with as little fiber as possible. As I’m a vegetarian, that was a bit of a challenge. And bleah, bread and cereal without much fiber are just so … bland. I was much happier after I switched to some home-made white bread.

The last day before the probe it was, again, all clear liquids and laxatives. Getting put to sleep for the procedure was trivial by comparison. Oh, everything came out looking good, in case you were wondering.

But worrying about what might happen (“Well it looked so bad we just removed your entire digestive system while you were still out. Saved you the cost of another shot of anesthetic.”) and then getting organized after colonoscopy day made it harder to focus than I expected. So rather than tackle Testament, I’m going with a lighter take: Mabuse the music video!

The 1980s synthpop group Propaganda gave us Dr. Mabuse in 1984. Actually they gave us several different versions, which 5 Against 4 breaks down for anyone who’s curious. The video (not from what 5 Against 4 considers the best version, the 10-minute Testaments of Dr. Mabuse) opens on a spooky old Gothic building. A parade of monks invites band member Claudia Brücken inside, flashing hands at her that show an M on them (a shout out to Fritz Lang’s M, presumably); a couple of times we see the image of one of the Mabuses (I’m inclined to say Wolfgang Preiss but I wouldn’t bet money on it)

The lyrics tell us that a man with no shadow promises you the world. He’s devoted to the devil, fascinated by crime — why not sell him your soul? Brücken wanders around the fortress admiring the eerie lighting before deciding she’d just as soon not sell him her soul. As she looks for a way out, one of the monks pursues her ominously. She reaches a dead end, discovers she can walk through a mirror and escapes. Yep, it’s the non-linear logic of 1980s music videos in all their glory (I do not consider that a bad thing).

Blue System, a later synthpop band formed by Dieter Bohlen, gave us a second Dr. Mabuse a decade later. In a much livelier, more upbeat tone, Bohlen tells us that the eponymous doctor spends every night and day on the run, for he’s the man who has stolen the sun. He lost his life, his dreams, was born a hundred years ago by machine. And it’s a shame he’ll return in a shade of grey.

Regrettably there doesn’t seem to be any video of this version that isn’t just Bohlen’s face.

I’d offer some musical insight, but I’m not musical enough to have any. Propaganda’s video definitely makes for better viewing, though.

Thanks to my friend Ross Bagby for steering me to these.



  1. Jeff Nettleton

    If memory serves, the video has Vladek Sheybal (From Russia With Love, Smiley’s People) as the Mabuse figure. There was a guy who would have made a great Mabuse!

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