In France, an insane surgeon's obsession with an actress from England leads him to replace her pianist husband's hands that got mangled in an accident with the hands of a late knife murderer which still have the urge to throw knives.
In Paris, the great surgeon Dr. Gogol falls madly in love with stage actress Yvonne Orlac, and his ardor disturbs her quite a bit when he discovers to his horror that she is married to concert pianist Stephen Orlac. Shortly thereafter, Stephen's hands are badly crushed in a train accident- beyond the power of standard medicine. Knowing that his hands are his life, Yvonne overcomes her fear and goes to Dr. Gogol, to beg him to help. Gogol decides to surgically graft the hands of executed murderer Rollo onto Stephen Orlac, the surgery is successful but has terrible side-effects...Written by
Ken Yousten <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Other titles considered for this film included "The Mad Doctor of Paris" and "The Hands of Orlac". See more »
When a fly crawls up into Gogol's cobra pitcher plant, the plant's leaves fold upward to trap the fly. Many insectivorous plants are capable of movement, but pitcher plants are immobile; the plant's leaves were pulled up by unseen wires. See more »
Dr. Gogol (Peter Lorre) becomes obsessed with Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake), not realizing she is married. When her husband (Colin Clive) has his pianist hands crushed, Gogol must save him... but the new hands take on a life of their own!
With all due respect to the other cast and crew, this is Peter Lorre's movie, through and through. He was great in "M", but really breaks through here. As Mike Mayo says, "nothing on screen tops Lorre's eggshell-smooth bald dome, and the makeup he wears toward the end." This was Lorre's first American film and he blends in flawlessly.
The imagery is also great with its stark black and white, director Karl Freund's homage to German expressionism. Although also directing "The Mummy", Freund was better known as a cinematographer and occasional producer, not preferring to direct. (He was also a communist sympathizer in pre-Nazi Germany... his wife was exterminated.)
The film is beautifully shot, mixing Freund's expressionism with cinematographer Gregg Toland's own skills. Toland, of course, went on to film "Citizen Kane", and many have seen the parallels between this film and that. Also, while multiple versions of this story ("The Hands of Orlac") have been filmed, both before and after "Mad Love", this is the superior film.
Much has been written and much more ought to be written, but in short, "Mad Love" is the overlooked gem of 1930s horror and really deserves a wider audience with a better examination of it and those involved.
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