aka The Hands Of Orlac
A brilliant surgeon, Doctor Gogol (Peter Lorre), is infatuated with a talented theatre actress, Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake), to the point of doing anything to make her his. Night after night Gogol watches her from his enclosed private box at the theatre, until the night she announces she is leaving to be with her husband as he pursues his career as a classical pianist. Fate, however, plays its cruel hand !.
Stephen Orlac (Colin Clive) is returning by train to Paris to meet with his wife on the eve of their new adventure together. Also on board the train is a murderer in the custodianship of two policemen. The killer is a famous circus knife thrower, known as Rollo the knife thrower, who’s skills were applied in murdering his wife. Tragedy strikes when the train derails. Amongst the wreckage lies Stephen Orlac, alive but both of his hands shattered in the accident. His future as a pianist in jeopardy !.
Having scorned Doctor Gogol’s advances Yvonne Orlac is forced to turn to him in order to try and save her husbands hands. The surgeon is only too happy to offer his skills, seizing the opportunity to ingratiate himself into the affections of the object of his desire. Instinctively he knows that he cannot repair the damage done to Stephen Orlac’s own hands, but within his genius mind he has a fantastical notion.
Gogol is the doctor called upon to bear witness as site physician to the execution of the convicted murderer Rollo. Put to the guillotine Rollo’s body and severed head are then dispatched to Doctor Gogol’s surgery to complete the necessary medical conformities pronouncing official death. Gogol’s insanely ingenious intent is to actually use the precision hands of the knife thrower to attach to the limbs of the great pianist Stephen Orlac. He amputates Orlac’s hands, and with great surgical skill attached those of Rollo to his patient. His act is kept secret from both his patient and Yvonne Orlac.
The operation is a great success but the process of rehabilitation is long and expensive. Yvonne Orlac is forced to sell personal possessions in order to pay rent and put food upon the table for both her husband and herself. Stephen Orlac feels detached from his hands and is convinced they are not his own !. As time passes, and his frustrations at not being able to properly play the piano grow, his hands seem to take on a mind of their own. He himself turns to his step father for financial assistance, but when spurned the step father later is discovered murdered, by a knife !.
All the whilst that the Orlac’s are trying to piece their lives back together, Doctor Gogol is slipping into a madness all of his own. His obsession for the unrequited love of Yvonne Orlac pushes him deeper and deeper into a regressive state of self imposed anguish. He cannot fathom how with such brilliance he cannot acquire his desire. Such is his state of mind that in order to simulate his desires he purchases a life like wax statuette of Yvonne from the theatre, after her last performance as the character. He places it in his home, for personal show in the private of his own domicile.
The defining moment of the film is one of startling context, ahead of its time and doubtlessly terrifying for audiences at the time. Stephen Orlac is surreptitiously pushed to the edge of his own sanity by the manipulative Doctor Gogol. Himself pushed to the brink of insanity, Gogol meets with a frantic Orlac in the movies most abstract scene. Gogol posses as the resurrected murderer Rollo, to inform Orlac that the hands he now has were once his. Sat facing each other across a small table, in the dingy depths of a Paris cellar, Rollo reveals his shining surgical steel limb attachments, and harnessed neck brace keeping his reattached head in place !. A truly incredible revelation and visual shocker, amplified by the chilling utterances from Peter Lorre’s character as he strains out a whispered pitch that sends shivers down the spine. Reminiscent of later day Italian Director Dario Argento’s murderous antagonists from his Giallo pictures, quite likely inspired by this very pivotal moment in screen horror history. An incredible scene, eerie in its inception and truly startling in its delivery. A genuine moment of originality, forever unforgettable once witnessed. A truly exceptional movie that has maintained its original awe to this day, and is still as fresh and rewarding a first time viewing experience as it surely was back upon its first release. Peter Lorre is perfectly cast as the iconoclastic genius Gogol.
The movie spirals to its cataclysmic conclusion, neatly unravelling the very fabric of sanity from both Stephen Orlac and Doctor Gogol. Two men on the literal knife edge of sanity and insanity. The price for genius is ever costly, and none more so than is witnessed within the madness of this, Mad Love.
Mad Love Trailer
Movie Details IMDB