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Orlac, affermato pianista, perde le mani in un grave incidente. I medici decidono allora di trapiantargli le mani di un assassino condannato a morte. L'operazione riesce perfettamente, ma, da quel momento, una serie di strani omicidi, generalmente commessi a mezzo dello strangolamento delle vittime, vengono commessi e la polizia, che inizialmente brancola nel buio, comincia a sospettare del pianista. Alla fine si scopre che il colpevole era, invece, da tutt'altra parte. Written by
I'm glad I had this chance to check out yet another German Expressionist classic even if I had to make do with faint Spanish subtitles over the original German intertitles (then again, the narrative is easy enough to follow)! It took me some time to warm up to the film: the pace is extremely sluggish (the aftermath of the train-wreck at the beginning seemed interminable), while the all-important decision to exchange the damaged hands of famed concert pianist Orlac with those of a murderer felt too abrupt.
In preparation for this review, I re-read Michael Elliott's comments on the film: while I generally concur with his opinion, at this stage I wouldn't put this above the 1935 Karl Freund/Peter Lorre/Colin Clive remake MAD LOVE (Ted Healy's intrusive comedy relief, to me, is just about the only negative element in that film while adding Dr. Gogol's obsessive yearning for Orlac's wife, hence the new title). Still, I was surprised by how much the later film actually followed the Silent version especially the two scenes in which Orlac meets the 'executed' murderer of the Maurice Renard story; another remake appeared in 1960, co-starring Christopher Lee and which I watched on Italian TV not too long ago but already can hardly remember anything about it!
Conrad Veidt's lanky figure and stylized approach to acting perfectly suited the requirements of the leading role (his posture generally echoing that of Cesare the Somnambulist in the same director's THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI ); the expressionist sets were also notable but the film's style is generally an internalized one in that it deals primarily with Orlac's state of mind filming him in tight shots whenever possible. However, the avant-garde score which accompanied the Grapevine Video edition I watched was a matter of taste featuring a female vocalist who frequently attempted to simulate the various characters' emotions with an annoying array of wails, shrieks and faint whispers!
It's unfortunate, too, that the backlog I have of unwatched films on DVD doesn't permit me to check out the Kino edition of CALIGARI for the moment especially since it contains a lengthy condensed version of another intriguing Wiene title, GENUINE: A TALE OF A VAMPIRE (1920)
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