Thanks for the answers.
As I was feelinga bit impatient I threw in the nerim ftps into my knoppix 3.9 sources.list and finally mplayer came up in apt-cache search.
However there was a few of them. I went for mplayer-586. I definitely fancied it over mplayer-nogui ... though not by much. I mean what will 586 get me? Ah well, I'm sure there's reasoning behind those nomenclatures.
Anyhow, it went into all the locales I have installed, and never cleaned up, especially the "zh" one: China, eh? OK, but bear in mind I never did any deleting of my previous mplayer. Why not? Laziness, lack of warning. BUt also this, from craigevil's debian mplayer page:
Uninstalling Old Version
If you have an older version of mplayer on your system remove all traces of it (if you used a deb do dpkg -P mplayer then go through your system and make sure EVERYTHING for mplayer is gone, some things will not be removed with dpkg -P). This step is VERY important.
Things from apt
That's what I call chilling. Everything "for" mplayer to be gotten rid of. That means all of my knoppix linux. Down the tubes! that's the advice. Amazing the stuff people let themselves write. OF course, I didn't delete my debian-knoppix. I didn't delete my mplayer either.
SO after the apt-get install, mplayer did not work at all. Which means? Delete everything! reformat! So I did that.
So, this really is the abyss. I don't mind, I knew I was going there anyway.