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The ultimate purpose of crime is to establish the endless empire of crime. A state of complete insecurity and anarchy, founded upon the tainted ideals of a world doomed to annihilation. When humanity, subjugated by the terror of crime, has been driven insane by fear and horror, and when chaos has become supreme law, then the time will have come for the empire of crime.
~ Mabuse's plan for world domination

Dr. Mabuse is the villain of Norbert Jacquiss's novel Mabuse the Gambler, and the films Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (silent, 1922) The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933) and the much later The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960). In the first two films, he is portrayed by Rudolf Klein-Rogge, who also portrayed Rotwang in Metropolis; in the third film he is portrayed by Wolfgang Preiss.

character overview

Dr. Mabuse is a master of disguise and telepathic hypnosis known to employ body transference, most often through demonic possession but sometimes utilizing television or phonograph machines, to build a "society of crime". Mabuse rarely commits his crimes in person, instead operating primarily through a network of agents enacting his schemes. Mabuse's agents range from career criminals working for him, to innocents blackmailed or hypnotized into cooperation, to dupes manipulated so successfully that they do not realize that they are doing exactly what Mabuse planned for them to do.

Mabuse's identity often changes; one "Dr. Mabuse" may be defeated and sent to an asylum, jail or the grave, only for a new "Dr. Mabuse" to later appear, as depicted in The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. The replacement invariably has the same methods, the same powers of hypnosis and the same criminal genius. There are even suggestions in some instalments of the series, that the "real" Mabuse possesses a series of hosts.

in the films

Mabuse is first introduced in Mabuse, the Gambler as a master criminal with a scheme to manipulate world stock markets to create chaos and make himself rich. During this scheme, he kills dozens of people; when the police foil his scheme and imprison him, he is haunted and driven insane by the ghosts of his victims.

In The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, he is able to project his spirit from prison into the bodies of other people and make them do his bidding. He ultimately "escapes" his host, leaving them completely insane. His ultimate plan is to create an "empire of crime" in which he is the undisputed ruler. He once again escapes the law by fleeing his latest host.

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Dr. Mabuse's ghost talking to the asylum's director

In The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse, set years after Mabuse's apparent death, his spirit inhabits several people to commit a rash of murders.