Barnabas’ Column #15: Ansel Faraj & “DOCTOR MABUSE: ETIOPOMAR”
“There are so many wonderful, strange, weird things in this world that have no explanation whatsoever….”
Christopher Pennock as Professor Konratz in Ansel Faraj’s DOCTOR MABUSE: ETIOPOMAR
Ansel Faraj was barely 21 years old when he wrote and directed DOCTOR MABUSE (2013), a no-budget homage to the super-villain created by Norbert Jaques in 1921 and first filmed by Fritz Lang the following year. Shot primarily in a garage with his actors performing before a blue screen, Faraj effectively recreated the aura of 1920s German Expressionism and 1940s film noir by designing the picture’s impressive backdrops via home computer. The finished film caught the eye of many in horror fandom, due in part to the casting of three major DARK SHADOWS actors.
DOCTOR MABUSE opened to a sold out crowd at the Village Theater in San Diego CA in April 2013. Now available on DVD and for On Demand viewing at Vimeo, the film gets a little competition from….Ansel Faraj.
DOCTOR MABUSE: ETIOPOMAR Doctor is a very different film from its predecessor. For the sequel, the young filmmaker brings his camera and cast out of the tiny studio and onto several brightly lit sets. While DOCTOR MABUSE was set firmly in cinema’s past, ETIOPOMAR takes on a more futuristic look, while still remaining homage to Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS.
All three DARK SHADOWS stars from the first film—Jerry Lacy, Kathryn Leigh Scott and Lara Parker—are back for the second outing. Also back is Nathan Wilson, whose tortured Inspector Carl Loehmann is now possessed, body and soul, by the evil Mabuse (Lacy). In a stroke of genius, Faraj has both actors play the city’s arch-enemy in the second film. In some shots, Mabuse is seen as Lacy, in others, we see Wilson. The cutting back and forth between the two actors is relatively random, effectively conveying the complete takeover of Loehmann by Mabuse. Both actors are chillingly evil.
The DARK SHADOWS cast are joined by a fourth DS star for ETIOPOMAR. Christopher Pennock is deliciously, hilariously over-the-top as Konratz, a madman who’s determined to bring Mabuse down. Pennock is awarded an able sidekick: Douglas M. Eames, in a relatively smaller role, still attracts attention with a very good performance as Stanton, one of the hearty band who won’t rest until they save their city from Mabuse.
But the show is stolen by Dane Corrigan as the maddest scientist we’ve seen in years. Imagine our delight then when we realized that the bug-eyed, scenery chewing Corrigan was playing Rotwang, the robot-creating mad scientist from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
Ansel Faraj chatted with Fango about his new film…
FANGORIA: What inspired the look of the second film?
ANSEL FARAJ: We did the Gothic world already and I felt that to change the style of both the characters and the world would be interesting for the second film for multiple reasons. I wanted each film to be its own entity. Sure, they work together,when screened as a double bill in the overall arc of the characters, but ETIOPOMAR’s story was a broader one. It wasn’t just about Mabuse this time, it’s about everyone else. It’s a different beast altogether and changing the look just seemed right.
FANG: So Rotwang and Maria from Lang’s METROPOLIS are in this film?
FARAJ: ETIOPOMAR is definitely a response to all the comic book superhero films the market has been flooded with. The first film was more of a film noir/Republic serial, but with the second film, I wanted it to be like a steampunk Marvel Studios movie, where all these classic silent movie villains would interact with and be part of the same universe as Rotwang and Maria the Robot. I always thought it would be cool to see Rotwang and Mabuse on screen together, how they would interact with each other, how they would backstab each other, it sounded like a lot of fun.
FANG: And now you have four DARK SHADOWS actors!
FARAJ: Chris Pennock joins Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker and Jerry Lacy in this film. Adding Chris to the roster was good because he brings a sense of anarchy and Vincent Price eccentricity to the Mabuse world. For this film, I felt we needed that madness that Chris can play so well to liven up the film and make it different from the first, which was more restrained and more of a mystery.
FANG: What about this film will appeal to DARK SHADOWS fans?
FARAJ: You get to see your favorite cast members on screen together again in something new that is still fantastical and mysterious.
Fango also chatted with Mabuse co-star Nathan Wilson…
FANG: How was it for you, as a relative newcomer, to work with the DARK SHADOWS actors?
NATHAN WILSON: It was an amazing experience to work with them on the first film, let alone the second. With the first film, I was very intimidated at first, but once I got to know them they were so giving and very easy to work with. The second film was just the icing on the cake. I was already familiar as to how they worked, and got to come to set and play with them. They are all such amazing actors and people to begin with. I am very blessed to have gotten to act with them and to be in these recreated Mabuse films.
FANG: Can you describe playing Mabuse in Loemann’s body?
WILSON: Playing Mabuse in the second film was like playing the worst person imaginable. A self-centered egotistical maniac who sets out to destroy everything because he wants to. And playing someone with that kind of power over people can be very interesting. It took a lot of prep. Plus having to try to mimic a version of Jerry Lacy’s Mabuse from the first film added another layer of difficulty. Playing Mabuse in the second film was definitely harder for me to nail down, but it was a lot more fun. And sharing the role with an amazing actor like Jerry Lacy made for such an amazing experience for me as an actor.
To order DVDs of the first Doctor Mabuse, or to stream either film for $2.99 at Vimeo On Demand, please visit DOCTOR MABUSE. Images Courtesy of Hollinsworth Productions.