Peter the Plywood Primate
The following essay was a freebie thrown in to accompany Masters of Cinema’s awesome DVD box set of Fritz Lang’s MABUSE films. For space reasons it couldn’t be included on the new Blu-ray edition, which I nevertheless recommend wholeheartedly to you (link below) so I’m offering it up here. Lang’s career has one of the most pleasing arcs of any in film history — he himself may have objected to another Mabuse sequel on the grounds that “The bastard is dead,” but he thought it over and perhaps realized that MABUSE CAN NEVER DIE ~
EVERYBODY’S GOT SOMETHING TO HIDE EXCEPT FOR ME AND MY MONKEY
About forty minutes into Fritz Lang’s The Thousand Eyes of Dr Mabuse, a waiter enters the Hotel Luxor ballroom carrying a toy chimpanzee, and presents it to a delighted guest. It’s a throwaway moment of surrealism, suggesting that Luis Bunuel’s admiration of Lang was not un-reciprocated (although Lang’s encroaching blindness and Bunuel’s deafness had hampered attempts to introduce them at parties, Lang did eventually sign an autograph for his fan).
The chimpanzee’s name is Peter, and he is Lang’s longtime companion. Some have speculated that Peter (perhaps named after the actor Lang made into a star, Peter Lorre) was a kind of son to the childless director, and certainly Lang posed for many family portraits with his little friend. These lovingly posed snaps are Lang’s final works as film-maker. Peter’s walk-on (or carry-on) appearance here marks an early clue to the new direction.