Mad about it. Combining Grand Guignol, surrealism and comedy to great effect, MAD LOVE remains to this day a chilling film. Peter Lorre is Gogol, a doctor who adores Yvonne Orlac (Drake), star of the Parisian Horror Theatre. Although she rebuffs him, Gogol buys a life-size replica of
Yvonne that stood in the theater's lobby, harboring a secret wish that perhaps he can bring it to life as Pygmalion did Galatea. Yvonne's husband (Clive), a famous pianist, loses his hands in a railway accident; she goes to Gogol, a brilliant surgeon, and pleads with him to help. The love-crazed
doctor grafts the hands of Reagan (Brophy), a recently executed knife-wielding murderer, onto Orlac's stumps. The initially grateful patient finds, though, that while he can't play the piano, he can throw knives only too well. When Gogol kills Orlac's stepfather, the mad doctor brainwashes Orlac
into thinking that he did it. Things get even eerier when the dead Reagan ostensibly shows up, claiming that Gogol has sewn his head back on and that he wants his hands back! The truth behind this, as well as how Orlac's new hands ironically help him save his wife from Gogol's clutches, make for
an improbable but brilliantly fitting climax.
Three excellent, distinctive cameramen were employed on the film, and the results show it. Director Karl Freund had been behind the lens on many films, and his bringing in Gregg Toland and Chester Lyons adds to the rich mixture of stark semi-Expressionism and dreamy near-surrealism that marks this
film. One memorable shot shows Lorre's shaved head half in bright light and half in dark shadow, a striking visual rendering of his psychotic state. Casting the likable Brophy as the killer was admittedly a mistake, although it may have been done because Brophy was the only actor around who
somewhat resembled the odd-looking Lorre and was about the same diminutive size. The comic relief by Ted Healy (who used to headline with The Three Stooges) is sometimes unwelcome as it takes too much edge off the film's scare tactics. At other points, though, it provided a much-needed punctuation
to the ever-building suspense. Lorre, meanwhile, gives a top-notch performance in his well-written role. His doctor is no mad scientist of the Lugosi-Karloff school, but a man driven crazy by his lust. His character displays recognizable motivations throughout, no matter how bizarre his
activities. Though the film is really Lorre's show, Colin Clive deserves praise for pulling off nervousness as few actors can, and Frances Drake brings serenity and vulnerability to the part of the heroine. A film which had a palpable influence on CITIZEN KANE (which Toland shot), MAD LOVE stands
today as one of the most compelling horror films of its time.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Mad about it. Combining Grand Guignol, surrealism and comedy to great effect, MAD LOVE remains to this day a chilling film. Peter Lorre is Gogol, a doctor who adores Yvonne Orlac (Drake), star of the Parisian Horror Theatre. Although she rebuffs him, Gogol… (more)