25 July 2014

Mad Love (1935)
67 min.
Directed by Karl Freund.
With Peter Lorre, Colin Clive, Frances Drake, Ted Healy, Sara Haden, Edward Brophy.
Yvonne Orlac (Drake) is an alluring actress who works in a Grand Guignol-style theatre company.

The esteemed surgeon Dr. Gogol (Lorre) adores Yvonne. He attends her every performance...and worships her with passion from afar.

But Yvonne keeps Gogol at arm's length.

Her true love is reserved for her husband Stephen (Clive), a successful concert pianist. Yet, when Stephen is involved in a terrible train accident - his hands irreversibly maimed - Yvonne entreats Dr. Gogol for his help.

Can Gogol save Stephen's hands? The eccentric Gogol agrees to help.

He amputates Stephen's crushed hands, and replaces them with the hands of a recently executed murderer. Now Stephen's new hands seem to be possessed. They compel him to commit gruesome acts of crime!

Gogol doesn't consider that unfortunate side effect to be any problem. With Stephen out of the way, that leaves Yvonne free for the taking.

Now, that's some mad love!

Based on the influential French novel Les Mains d'Orlac by Maurice Renard, this 1935 adaptation is a must see.

Lorre turns in an outstanding performance as Gogol; the actor perfectly rachets his feelings for Yvonne, from tender affection to obsessive insanity.

And moments of the latter give the bug-eyed horror icon his freakiest moment in Mad Love, hands down: the creepy 'neck brace' sequence.

As he did with The Mummy (1932), cinematographer Karl Freund takes on directorial duties here, and confirms once again he has a talent for visual storytelling.

Renard's original novel would get the cinematic genre treatment many times.

It's next retelling would be The Hands of Orlac (1961), starring Christopher Lee and Mel Ferrer.

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