September 23rd, 2011: Mad Love (1935)

Cast and Crew: Karl Freund (Director); Gregg Tolland (Cinematographer) Keye Luke

What It’s About: Brilliant but disturbed surgeon Gogol (Peter Lorre) is obsessed with Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake), the star of a Grand Guignol-type theater. Yvonne’s husband is the brilliant pianist Stephen Orlac (Colin Clive). When Stephen’s train derails and his hands are horribly mangled,Yvonne, knowing that Gogol is not only an obsessed fan, but the most brilliant surgeon in Paris, begs him to help.

Gogol finds Stephen’s hands too mangled for him to save with surgery, but he has another, more radical idea: to transplant the hands of Rollo (Edward Brophy), a recently guillotined murderer, to Stephen’s arms.  The transplant is a success, but the treatments to rehabilitate Orlac’s hands fail to allow him to play piano as he did before. Orlac begins to throw knives…just like Rollo did. Yvonne will not go back to work, Orlac can’t get work, and his stepfather will not give him money. Gogol sees opportunity in this….

Why Watch it Today?:  The first “successful” (eventually the hands were rejected and had to be amputated) hand transplant occurred today in 1998Mad Love uses the hook of a transplanted body part carrying with it the skills and murderous impulses of a condemned man, but unlike most films in this (yes, really, there are more) sub-sub-genre, Mad Love gives us a brilliant character study of Gogol (in a powerhouse performance by Lorre) and his destructive obsession with Yvonne.

Where to Get It: Netflix (Rental) and Amazon

The completely nutty trailer:

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