Thursday, February 4, 2010

Peter Lorre lends a hand in the name of 'Mad Love'

Mad Love (aka "The Hands of Orlac") (1935)
Starring: Frances Drake, Peter Lorre, and Colin Clive
Director: Karl Freund
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Dr. Gogol (Lorre), a brilliant but mentally unstable surgeon (Lorre) becomes obsessed with the beautiful actress Yvonne Orlac (Drake)--obsessed to the point where he has a wax statue of her installed in his music room. When Yvonne's husband's (Clive) hands are crushed in an accident, Orlac saves them using a revolutionary surgery technique to save them... but then turns to the task of driving Orloc insane, so he can claim Yvonne as his own.

"Mad Love" is a slightly muddled movie with a confused plot (made more-so by the obnoxious comic relief character of an American newspaper reporter (played by Ted Healey). However, the film is well-acted and filmed on impressively lit sets--Gogol's large, empty house/clinic becomes a great metaphor for his his hollow soul, as shadows play throughout it--and its mixture of romance and horror is bound to entertain lovers of early horror movies. The climactic scenes are particularly chilling, as the depths of Gogol's psychopathy becomes crystal clear.

(It may even serve as part of the lineup for a Bad Movie Nite, although it's by no means a bad movie. Some of the more melodramatic elements may tickle the fancy of certain kinds of movie lovers, especially Dr. Gogol's disguise at one point in the film. It's one of those rare cinematic moments that's both scary and hilarious.)

Although not necessarily considered one of the "founding" films of the horror genre, it is certainly the first "transplanted hands take on a life of their own" movies. I can think of at least three others I've seen over the years with very similar plots. (And I think there's a fourth one lurking in my Review Pile.)

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