Hag horror and Dr. Mabuse returns! Movies viewed

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962)was a creepy Grand Guignol story about former child star Baby Jane (Bette Davis) and her more talented sister Blanche. Since the day Jane’s driving put Blanche in a wheelchair, she’s been caregiver out of guilt, but now that care is increasingly abusive and she has plans to get free of Blanche once and for all .. A major success that redefined both women as horror actors (and launched a mini-genre of “hag horror”) and linked them as adversaries even though it’s the only movie they made together. With Victor Buono in his movie debut as Davis’ accompanist. “I’m writing a letter to daddy — his address is heaven above.”

Young director/writer Ansel Faraj is a great fan of Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse, but his MABUSE (2013) is a new version rather than a sequel. Here Mabuse (Dark ShadowsJerry Lacy) launches an elaborate scheme to seize control of the (unnamed) city and create his own nation, Etiopomar; can Inspector Lohmann take over from dying investigator Norbert von Wenke and save the day? This is very low budget (the Making Of on the DVD says it was literally shot in Faraj’ garage with digital backgrounds added) and doesn’t quite succeed; when Mabuse possesses Lohmann, it looks like a six-year-old imitating the Vulcan mind meld. Lots of Mabuse names, though, as witness we have Kathryn Leigh Scott and Lara Parker of Dark Shadows as psychics Von Harbeau and Carozza. “Mabuse’s reign of terror will know no bounds.”

The same DVD included the 2014 sequel, MABUSE: Etiopomar (a nation Dr. Mabuse hoped to found in South America in the original Jacques novels) shows Mabuse has already achieved the power he craves only to have it slipping away in the wake of a resistance movement; can the roboticist Rotwang and his humanoid robots turn things around? This film has the odd reveal that Mabuse, Von Harbeau and Carozza are all survivors of an ancient bodysnatching race, and the women are none too keen on Mabuse allying with machines instead of going gently into that good night. In fairness, while the two films are hardly Lang-class, they’re way better viewing than Death-Ray Mirror of Dr. Mabuse. “You have now defiled the very soil of this city — there is nothing left but death.”

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