Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mad Love (1935)

I am a fan of Peter Lorre. He has always played creeps and losers so well but this early role is one of his most creepy. Heavily influenced by the German expressionist films like Metropolis and M, this movie has the same twisted shadows and cramped sets that give us an atmosphere of dread.

The story involved a couple named Orlac (Colin Clive - who also played Dr. Frankenstein - "He's Alive".) who come into contact with a weird surgeon named Dr Gogol. Gogol is a megalomaniac, obsessive who like Golum has an evil side that talks to him in the mirror and tells him to commit murder later in the film.

The Doctor spends his evenings watching the performance of an actress that he in is love with. She has no idea he exists and even when he is introduced to her, she finds him to be very weird.

The bald head, fur lined coat and monotone speech pattern of Lorre certainly add to his strangeness. We understand right away that although he is brilliant - he is also insane. He even keeps a wax figure of the actress in his secret room upstairs.

The actress's (Frances Drake) husband is a famous composer and pianist whose hands are crushed in a train accident. After told by reputable surgeons that the hands can't be saved, the wife visits the creepy Doctor who agrees, after seeing the execution of a knife throwing murderer at the guillotine, to do the operation. Of course he transfers the hands of the executed killer to those of the piano player. You have the feeling that the Doctor has ulterior motives.

With a successful transplant the piano player thinks he can return to his former profession but his failure at that makes him frustrated - a frustration he exhibits by throwing pens and knives at people he hates, just like the guy who was executed did. The hands of the killer still carry within them the need to kill.

When he tells this to the surgeon, Dr. Gogol gives him bad advice in the hopes that the piano player will kill someone, thus giving the surgeon a clear shot at the actress. It's all very sinister but unlike later movies that use the same theme, both the husband and wife seem to suspect early on that the good and brilliant Dr. Gogol is a loon.

The piano player then meets a mysterious man who may or may not be the criminal that was guillotined early in the movie and whose hands were used to fix the piano player. His appearance must have scared the crap out of audiences in 1935.

The entire movie, in fact, is unsettling, with Lorre playing one of the most deranged killers in movie history. It`s a fantastic performance and one of those lost gems from the early days of movies that you might want to check out.


Wings1295 said...

Not sure if I have seen this, but I am guessing no, because it seems like it would be memorable! Lorre is always great.

M. D. Jackson said...

Mad Love is one of those movies you hear so much about but never actually get to see. I'll have redouble my efforts to find it and watch it now.

BTW: I think you meant Colin Clive, not Colin Firth. Colin Firth is getting on a bit, true, but he's not that old.

Kal said...

Oh it's a trip gentlemen. You need to see it. It's only 67 minutes long.

Rod Barnett said...

An absolutely brilliant horror classic from that most wonderful decade of the 1930s. I've enjoyed some of the remakes but this is the best version ever.

For those interested it can be purchased in this set with five other great horror movies.


Rainer F. Engel said...

Thanks for using my pictures (of the MAD LOVE bust) on your blog without asking permission or any credit.