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...
Peter Lorre ... Doctor Gogol
Frances Drake ... Yvonne Orlac
Colin Clive ... Stephen Orlac
Ted Healy ... Reagan, the American Reporter
Sara Haden ... Marie, Yvonne's Maid
Edward Brophy ... Rollo the Knife Thrower
Henry Kolker ... Prefect Rosset
Keye Luke ... Dr. Wong, Gogol's Assistant
May Beatty ... Françoise, Gogol's Housekeeper
Director: Karl Freund
Codecs: XVid / MP3
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.
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.
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.
* Peter Lorre was under contract to Columbia Pictures. He agreed to be loaned out to MGM for this film if Columbia would do a film version of Crime and Punishment (1935/I) with him in the role of Raskolnikov.
* The close-ups of the wax statue are actually Frances Drake in makeup.
* Easily recognized actors who are supposed to be in this movie according to studio records and/or casting call lists include Harold Huber, Isabel Jewell, George Davis, Billy Dooley and Leo White. However, they were not seen.
* The Hays Office cautioned the studio about showing scenes of the dead, injured or dying after the train wreck. Some countries banned the film altogether, while others cut the scenes of torture, guillotining and strangulation.
* The line "Each man kills the thing he loves" comes from Oscar Wilde's poem, "The Ballad of Reading Gaol".
* Peter Lorre's first American film.
* May Beatty's declaration about the wax figure, "It went for a little walk!" is a clear echo of a similar line from 1932's "The Mummy," also written by John Balderston and directed by Karl Freund.
* The original titles were to contain a spoken warning in a manner similar to 1931's "Frankenstein," also written by Balderston, but that was abandoned in favor of the more original idea of the titles on a window climaxed by a fist smashing it.
* Charles Chaplin called Lorre the screen's best actor after seeing his performance in "Mad Love."
* SPOILER: In the original script the little girl dies in surgery because Gogol is so distracted. In the finished film, his mental distraction causes him to leave the operation and it is successfully completed by Dr. Wong.