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 ~


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.

Das Testament Des Dr Mabuse [Masters of Cinema] (Dual Format Edition) [Blu-ray] [1933]

8 Responses to “Peter the Plywood Primate”

  1. David Boxwell Says:

    Hitchcock’s oeuvre is filled with kiddies. But other than M, I can’t think of a Lang film other than MOONFLEET and THE BIG HEAT that has kids present. And we only get those two kids as isolated individuals, whereas Hitch had them in big noisy comic (or frightened) gaggles.

  2. Hitchcock in a way never left childhood behind — whereas Lang had adult fears. M is more about the parents’ anxiety than the child’s fate. Lang himself was childless of course, and the chimp may have been compensation.

  3. I was hoping to find a link to Andrew Meyer’s An Early Clue To The New Direction (1966) starring Joy Bang and Rene Ricard, but I couldn’t find it on YouTube.

  4. I’ve never come across a copy of it anywhere.

  5. […] Horror host Hilary Barta adds to the confusion today with a five-line stroll through Fritz Lang’s final MABUSE flick, here. It’s a movie I previously mused about here. […]

  6. A child figures prominently in THE BIG HEAT.

  7. Which was already noted. More coffee, please!

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