Mad Love (also known as The Hands of Orloff) is a dandy horror flick from the golden age of horror. It features Peter Lorre in his Hollywood debut and he is utterly fascinating in the movie as an palpably insane surgeon whose mad obsession with an actress ignites the utterly weird goings-on in this yarn. The movie also stars Colin Clive and Frances Drake in some exceedingly memorable roles.
The story is a lurid one indeed. An actress named Yvonne is the star of a Parisian Grand Guignol production and every night she is watched greedily by a renowned physician named Gogol. Her husband Stephen Orlac is a famed concert pianist and the two are finally going to have a life together after having been married for a year. But the actress's retirement is not met well by Gogol who reveals his obsessive love for her, frightening her. But fate intervenes when Stephen is nearly killed in a train accident and his hands are nearly destroyed. Using her influence over Gogol, Yvonne convinces him to operate and in a desperate gamble he borrows the hands of a recently executed knife-murderer to replace those of Orlac's.
But the hands seem to have ambitions of their own and after many months of money-draining therapy Stephen is still unable to play music but he can fling a knife with the best of them. Yvonne goes again to Gogol who has gotten even crazier and he tries to convince the world that Stephen is a murderer by pretending to be the resurrected murderer (minus hands). Stephen is convinced and so are the police, but Gogol loses control and things go awry for him.
There are lots of great scenes in this one, almost all of them featuring the boggle-eyed Lorre at his best. You can almost feel his eyes as they wiggle and wobble across his face. And it's is suffering that comes through. Gogol is a sick sick puppy, a weird man who seems to thrive on pain, the pain he casually inflicts on those around him with his often callous disregard and more intense versions. He becomes aroused by the connection of torture and his beloved Yvonne who appears ideal to him as the victim of a house of torment.
Return tomorrow for another handmade movie starring Peter Lorre.