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Apparently, Peter Lorre only agreed to do this film because he had been
promised the lead in "Crime & Punishment" afterwards if he did it. I've
seen both films, and though Lorre was magnificent in both, I prefer
this one. I'm so glad he agreed to do it.
"Mad Love" is the story of Doctor Gogol, brilliant Parisian surgeon whose reputation for doing surgeries on desperate cases free of charge is well- renowned. But Doctor Gogol is a morbid man as well, gleefully attending public beheadings and taking orgasmic delight in the Grand Guignol Theatre de Horreur, which stages realistic horror plays. The star of the Theatre is Yvonne, and Doctor Gogol is madly in love with her, hence the title of our film. But Yvonne is already married to Stephen Orlac, a famous concert pianist. Doctor Gogol, with his bald head and buggy eyes, gives her the creeps and her distaste for him is clear. However, when her husbands train crashes and his million-dollar hands are destroyed, it is Doctor Gogol she turns to. Desperate to win the love of Yvonne, Gogol agrees to do the impossible. Stephen Orlac is saved...but only Gogol knows that his hands are no longer his own. They once belonged to a killer, and they want to kill again.
Lorre turns in yet another astonishing performance here; his Gogol is very convincing, quite capable of handling a few lines of cornball dialogue without seeming foolish in the least. And the sympathy he elicits is simply amazing; I found myself cheering for him the whole time instead of for Yvonne, who struck me as a cold, opportunistic gold digger, quite willing to use the Doctor if it served her purpose. I'm sure this was not the intent of the filmmakers, but Lorre emerges as the hero here, at least in my humble opinion. Toward the end of the film, he is completely unleashed, playing mad, wild music on the organ and donning a most hideous metal contraption which looks like something that H. R. Giger might have designed.
This beautiful black-and-white film by MGM rivals the classic monsters of Universal, and placed Peter Lorre alongside such horror movie icons as Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price. Reportedly, Lorre detested these horror film roles that made him famous, but his resentment never shows through; he threw himself into this and every role with creativity and zeal. He is truly marvelous to watch. Mad Love should not be missed by fans of old, spooky Gothic tales. It is a masterpiece.
The legendary Karl Freund is definitely better known for his highly
innovative work as director of photography, resulting in an extensive
career (spanning across 5 decades) of beautiful and pioneering
cinematography. With a body of work as impressive as his (ranging from
Lang's "Metropolis" to TV's classic "I Love Lucy"), it is
understandable that Freund's work as a director gets so easily
forgotten. The fact that he only directed 10 films in his career also
plays an important factor in this, however, at least 2 of his
directorial efforts easily rank among the best horror movies ever made.
The first one of the two (incidentally, his first work as a director in
America), 1932's "The Mummy" is really the most popular, given that it
is also one of the best performances by horror icon Boris Karloff;
however, it is in the second one where Freund's talents really shine,
making this last movie as a director his final masterpiece.
Loosely based on Maurice Renard's novel, "Les Mains d'Orlac" (literally, "The Hands of Orlac"), "Mad Love" is the story of Dr. Gogol (Peter Lorre), a brilliant surgeon deeply in love with a beautiful theater actress named Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake). When season ends, Yvonne announces her retirement, and this prompts Gogol to finally meeting her. Unfortunately for Gogol, Yvonne tells him that she is actually married to concert pianist Stephen Orlac (Colin Clive). Saddened, Gogol leaves, but a bizarre turn of events will make him meet Yvonne one more time: Stephen has lost his hands in a terrible train accident and only Gogol's expertise will be able to save him. While he saves Stephen's hands, the operation begins to have serious side-effects, not only in Orlac, but also in Gogol.
While the screenplay was written by P.J. Wolfson, John L. Balderston and the usual assortment of contributing writers, the movie is mostly the work of Guy Endore and Florence Crewe-Jones, who made the adaptation from the French novel. Endore was a regular writer for MGM at the time, and helped to write other MGM's horrors like "Mark of the Vampire", "The Raven" and "The Devil-Doll"; it is his style, mix of Gothic and pulp novel what flows through the movie, although he remains true to the essence of Renard's classic horror novel. Renard is often credited as being the "inventor" of the Mad Scientist archetype, and truly gives a great use to it in his novel; appropriately, "Mad Love" keeps this psychological drama between characters and brings it to life, spending considerable time detailing the characters and their relationships, building up the necessary tension for the grandiose finale.
After directing several melodramas and comedies in a row, "Mad Love" allowed Freund to once again return to his expressionist roots and create a haunting tale of horror and madness in almost the same vein as his earlier classic, "The Mummy". Unlike what would be expected of a cinematographer, Freund dedicates as much attention to the non-visual aspects of the film as he does for the visual imagery, playing with the many different elements that form the bizarre love triangle of the film. The story itself focuses a lot in psychological themes, ranging from neurosis and hysteria, to compulsive obsession and dangerous psychosis; Freund makes great use of this themes across the movie, although it is obvious that he prefers the character of Dr. Gogol to the other protagonists of the film. Like Im-Ho-Tep the mummy, Dr. Gogol is driven by the mad love he feels for a woman, but unlike with the mummy, Freund makes sure to never fully transform Gogol into a monster, making him very human and frighteningly realist.
Peter Lorre's acting is essential for this last element in Gogol's persona, and he delivers one of this most amazing performances in his career. While lesser known than his characters in "M" or in "The Maltese Falcon", Dr. Gogol is certainly an iconic Lorre character that truly showcases Lorre's versatile talent. Frances Drake is surprisingly great, showing great emotion and excellent domain of the scene, giving her best to avoid being overshadowed by Lorre in their scenes together. Colin Clive, who would become famous as Dr. Victor Frankenstein in James Whale's films, delivers a truly effective performance as Orlac, but I found that Freund seems definitely much more interested in Dr. Gogol and his antics than in the pianist's neurosis, leaving few space to Orlac's growing insanity. Still, Clive does a very good performance despite the limited screen time his character receives when compared to Gogol.
It is probably this last point what truly stops this movie from being a classic of horror, as with a runtime of barely 68 minutes, it feels too short and gives the feeling that something was missing (perhaps a few more scenes with Colin Clive) in this psychological thriller. It's not really a big flaw in the end, but I truly was expecting to see the wonderful story being explored a bit more, as personally I felt it somewhat incomplete. On a different business, and as expected in a film by Karl Freund, the cinematography is simply brilliant, Chester A. Lyons and Freund's protegé, Gregg Toland (who would become a legend on his own), are in charge of it and devise one of the most beautifully looking horror of the 30s, easily on par with Freund's job for Universal.
It's a shame that studios were more interested in Freund's work as a cinematographer, because "Mad Love" proves that there he truly had talent as a director too. Who knows what would Freund had directed after this movie, specially considering the great improvements in cinematography he went on devising through his long and successful career. As it is, "Mad Love" is the final statement of a master who simply wasn't allowed to make more films (although who knows, probably he wasn't interested in directing), but it is nice to see him retiring with a top notch masterpiece. 9/10
Excellent, morbid story of a brilliant sureon's (Lorre) obsessive,
fetishistic love for a Grand Guignol style actress. The early scenes are
perhaps the best film evocative of actual Grand Guignol sadefests. Lorre
manages to procure a perfect waxen statue of his love object, thus
introducing doppleganger horror, a relatively rare treat in American horror.
The main plot focuses on Lorre's attempt to implicate Drake's husband in a
series of murders by convincing him that the hands he grafted for him are
acting of their own will (as in "Hands of Orlac"). Many subtle moments
(which critics have not credited the film for), some garishly out-of-place
slapstick humor is the only negative aspect. Fantastic
This is Lorre's entry into classic horror stardom: Karloff has his Frankenstein monster, Lugosi has Dracula (forever, folks), Chaney Jr. has the wolfman, and Lorre's got this lesser-known but equally classic film to recommend him as one of the major horror stars of the classic era. This film represents MGM's entry into the early 30s horror film sweepstakes as well, and they did well to associate themselves with solid hands like Freund's and Lorre's. Hands..... hmmmmm unintended pun. Anyway, if anyone out there is a fan of classic horror films and has not yet seen this one, put it at the top of your list.
Dr. Gogol (Peter Lorre) is a brilliant surgeon who is obsessed with
actress Yvonne Orlac (Francis Drake). She tells him she is leaving the
stage to be a full time wife to her husband Stephen Orlac (Colin
Clive), a concert pianist. Gogol is crushed. Stephen Orlac loses his
hands in a train wreck.
At the request of Yvonne, Orlac grafts on a new pair of hands to Stephen. Unfortunately, they happen to be the hands of Rollo, an executed murderer who loved throwing knives. It seems the hands have a life of their own--Stephen can't play the piano anymore but can throw knives accurately and he has a desire to kill. He slowly starts to go crazy. Gogol again tells Yvonne that he loves her. She rejects him and Gogol cracks. He sets out to drive Stephen mad--and drive Yvonne into his arms.
The plot is silly but it still works. Anyways, the film isn't respected for its plot--it's because of Lorre and the sets. The sets in this film are huge, designed very strangely and add to the weirdness of the plot. They're all dimly lit giving the film a dark, depressing look. The acting is almost all good. Drake is just beautiful and perfect as the suffering wife. Clive is way too serious and looks horrible--sadly the man suffered from alcoholism...and it shows. Lorre is just superb as Gogol. He's very severe looking with his shaved head. You see him start out as kindly but obsessed and slowly slip into madness. Also there's a genuinely terrifying meeting Orlac has with Gogol (disguised as someone else) in a hotel. And director Karl Fruend throws in an amusing in joke--someone's repeats the "It went for a little walk" line from his "The Mummy" (1932)! The only real debit is the unnecessary "comic" relief from Ted Healy and an alcoholic landlady (sorry, but alcoholism isn't funny).
This is still mostly unknown more than 60 years after its release. Why? It bombed badly when it came out, was too grim for most people and it almost never pops up on TV. That's a shame--it's one of the best horror films to come out in the 1930s. See this if you get a chance--it's only 70 minutes and it's well worth it! One of Lorre's best performances.
This is a forgotten film one doesn't see too often. TCM showed it
recently as part of their Halloween programming and frankly, it shows
clearly how Karl Freund was ahead of his times. Mr. Freund had a long
career as a cinematographer; it helps he had an eye for atmosphere and
detail, as proved in this film.
The sets and costumes reflect the genius of the team behind the camera, led by Karl Freund. The black and white photography greatly enhances the film. There's a scene at the beginning of the movie where one can see Dr. Gogol, played with immense panache by Peter Lorre, seated in one of the boxes in the theatre. We only see half of his face, because the other half hidden in shadows. We get a sense of evil with only a minimal of lighting and gesture in the sinister figure of Dr. Gogol.
The movie is a mystery suspense, not to be classified as a horror film because the gory details are kept at a minimum, but at the same time, we are shown brilliant frightening moments throughout the picture.
Peter Lorre shines in this film; he carries the movie. Mr. Lorre had excellent parts in other films that followed, but in this film, as well as in "M" he showed a talent and an understanding about the person he is supposed to be. In a way, not having the good looks to be cast in other roles, he became a secondary character actor in the succeeding years.
Frances Drake, as Yvonne Orlac, is awfully good. She's the object of Gogol's affections, but she loves the man that is transformed by the doctor, after a tragic accident. Colin Clive as Stephen Orlac, is quite effective as the pianist who knows a lot about knives. Ted Healy makes a funny appearance as Regan, the reporter in search of sensationalism. Sara Haden, as Marie, Dr Gogol's maid, is excellent as the maid from hell.
Of course, the movie is perhaps Karl Freund's best because in 69 minutes he achieves to do a movie that is fascinating to watch because of the superb acting of Mr. Lorre.
German actor Peter Lorre made his American film debut in "Mad Love," which I believe was an MGM release and proved to be competition for some of the popular Universal Horror films of the time. Peter Lorre had made his epic debut with 1930's "M," in which Peter amazingly played a child-killer under director Fritz Lang. Peter is a demonic performer if their ever was one, and every memorable scene in this film has Peter's lonely mad doctor character at the helm. Peter is very much in love with a stage actress who is preparing to marry a popular pianist, and all of this gets in the way of Peter's fantasy to have the woman all for himself. A train accident occurs, which leaves the pianist with little hope, but it is Peter the doctor who goes about replacing the pianist's hands with those of a dead criminal, whom Peter himself had watched the beheading of a few days before the train accident. Things take a very silly turn, when the hands somehow take over the very personality of the pianist, and Peter's mad doctor plays the innocent with the pianist, while at the time, telling his actress girlfriend that he is simply mad and that she should stay far and away from him. I would rather not mention how the story unfolds, because that would ruin the good fun for those who have yet to watch this feature, but I must admit that the ending is very funny in a sad way, and there's so much going on with Peter's sanity throughout the film. Worth seeing for a variety of different reasons, so watch it.
I really enjoyed "Mad Love," it moves well and is a lot of fun to watch.
It's certainly the most substantial role I've seen Colin Clive in other than
his immortal portrayals of Dr. Frankenstein. Peter Lorre was such a great
actor, he does scene after scene as the creepy Dr. Gogol with such natural
ease, it doesn't seem like he's acting at all. Yet Dr. Gogol comes across as
more pathetic than evil, which is crucial to this film, which has a very
simple plot and a predictable ending.
Peter Lorre is great to watch! Even the most simple, corny line spoken by him rings with meaning and truthfulness, Lorre really knew how to play for/to the camera. This movie is only a little over an hour, highly recommended if you're going to do a double feature, and you're looking for a short feature as an appetizer.
This film is brilliant in every way. The sets are very expressionistic
and therefore very cinematic. We see things according to a certain eye,
and in this case the eye is demented.
And the narrative. This is the most interesting work I've seen dealing with the two poles of humanity: the neurotic vs. the psychotic, or in general terms, the scientific vs. the creative / the bound vs. the free.
Here we have the mad doctor (neurotic) vs. the virtuoso pianist (psychotic).
The figurative psychosis of the pianist is fully brought to light by the meddlings of the neurotic, who attaches to him the hands of a literal psychotic. And this drives all else.
Oh, the irony. Here we have the doctor (who is bound to his neurosis/science) enslaving the pianist (the free/creative archetype). The bound is binding the free.
Watch for the Chopin. It's a cryptic reference, but just as we cut away from the radio broadcast concert, it is announced that the pianist will play a Chopin number: Waltz No. 11 in G-flat Major, I think. Of course, Chopin is the universal symbol of the psychotic, that is the psychotic (creative) pole of humanity. This underscores what the pianist represents for us. Always watch for Chopin references.
Peter Lorre's bald, creepy looks as "Dr. Gogol" are memorable in this
film. The story is fairly interesting with a few twists, although a bit
far-fetched and a little corny in spots. Then again, it is 70 years
The black-and-white cinematography is very good in parts. I really liked the closeups on Lorre and the shadows in the hallway. Frances Drake is a pretty woman except for those weird eyebrows, the style of the day, unfortunately.
I saw this on a fair-to-poor quality tape. I imagine this looks pretty good on DVD and I'd like to see it again now that it's out on that format.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have never read the novel THE HANDS OF ORLAC, but the story has been
used so frequently that it is easy to recall it. Peter Lorre is Dr.
Gogol, a brilliant surgeon who has fallen in love with a concert singer
Yvonne (Frances Drake). She however falls for the concert pianist
Stephen Orlac (Colin Clive), and marries him despite Gogol's attempts
to woo her. Then, Orlac is in a terrible train accident that destroys
his hands. Yvonne goes to Gogol and pleads for him to restore Stephen's
hands. He does this by grafting the hands of Rollo (Ed Brophy), a
convicted murderer (a knife thrower), after Rollo is guillotined. This
seems to be the best chance for Stephen, except that he is having
difficulty training the new hands to work on his piano keyboard. He
also keeps finding that the hands like to play with knives. Then, after
the death of a relative of Stephen's (Ian Wolfe), who was not friendly
to him, Stephen begins to wonder if the hands are still under the
control of the murderer, and if he is committing more killings. The
final blow is a meeting at a hotel with the dead criminal - who
explains that Gogol has reconnected his head!
Is Stephen going insane? Or is there some rational explanation of what is happening here?
MAD LOVE holds up pretty well today, mostly due to Lorre's performance as Gogol, and the support of Clive, Drake, and Brophy. Perhaps the only really bad element is Ted Healey, as a nosy reporter - his antics were meant as comic relief, but the creator of the "Three Stooges" was actually a pretty unfunny guy by himself. Moreover his part has been severely cut in the film. Probably just as well. In recent years Pauline Kael suggested that Lorre's bald appearance as Gogol was used as a model for Orson Welles' bald appearance in CITIZEN KANE (as the aging tycoon when his second marriage collapses). Welles when confronted by this suggestion said he never saw MAD LOVE, so that particular coincidence is only a coincidence. I may add that the older Kane has a mustache, whereas Gogol has none.
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