Mad Love (1935)

“He likes dead things.”

In Mad Love Doctor Gogol (Peter Lorre) is a wildly successful, talented surgeon with a reputation for saving people by performing miraculous surgeries that others cannot. He develops an obsession with actress Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake) and attends her performances at the quaint Le Theatre des Horreurs every night. When Yvonne’s pianist husband Stephen (Colin Clive) is in an accident that crushes his hands, the hospital doctors say that his hands must be amputated. Knowing that the loss of Stephen’s hands would destroy him, Yvonne turns to Gogol hoping for a miracle.

Gogol, who wishes desperately to please and impress Yvonne, performs an experimental procedure by grafting the hands of a murderer to Stephen’s wrists. Unaware of the truth, both Yvonne and Stephen assume that Gogol has performed an impossible miracle and simply saved the hands–they have no idea that Stephen’s ‘new’ hands have a horrible history….

Mad Love may have a preposterous premise, but the film pulls off its story, and the result is a highly entertaining psychological drama for Peter Lorre fans. Somehow Stephen’s hands do look out of place–even though they’re attached to his wrists. Supporting roles help bolster the story–there’s Francoise (May Beatty) Gogol’s drunken housekeeper and Reagan (Ted Healy)–a pushy American reporter. Lorre is perfectly cast in the role of Gogol–the doctor who’s capable of great kindness and compassion, but whose unhealthy obsession with the unattainable Yvonne brings him to insanity. And it’s through his insane desire for Yvonne that Gogol’s character becomes warped. Lorre maintains a shaved head for the entire film and this gives him a very youthful, vulnerable, appearance, but in one part of the film he assumes a monstrous disguise that is quite ingenious. The role of Gogol grants Lorre the opportunity to show his talent as an actor, and he displays a range of moods–including one scene in which his face begins to glow with obsessive desire with very little expression change. If you enjoy this film, I also recommend another Lorre film, The Beast With Five Fingers. From director Karl Freund.

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