Mad Love (U.S.A 1935) Movie Review

Mad Love 1935 Film Review

Reviewed by Colleen Wanglund,

Mad Love (U.S.A 1935) Movie Review

Director: Karl Freund

Based on the novel The Hands of Orlac by Maurice Renard and a remake of the original 1924 silent film (with the same title as the novel), Mad Love stars Peter Lorre as Doctor Gogol, a surgeon who is obsessed with stage actress Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake).  Yvonne is listening to her husband’s piano concert on the radio after her last show when Gogol comes to see her.  Gogol is distressed to learn that Yvonne is leaving the stage to be with her husband Stephen (Colin Clive).  Dr. Gogol is so obsessed with Yvonne that he pays the moving men a large sum of money to have her wax statue delivered to his home.

Yvonne goes to the train station to meet Stephen, who is coming home after a tour, but there has been a terrible train accident.  Steven is hurt badly and the doctor cannot save his hands.  In a desperate attempt to save Steven’s hands (and his life) she has him taken by ambulance to Dr. Gogol’s clinic.  Hoping to gain Yvonne’s love, Gogol transplants Stephen’s mangled hands with those of the murderer Rollo the Knife Thrower, who was sent to the guillotine for his crimes. 

The young couple was forced into debt to pay for Stephen’s surgery but when creditors come to take his piano away, Stephen throws a fountain pen, as though Rollo were throwing a knife.  Stephen goes to his father seeking help but is refused and in anger Stephen throws a knife in the shop.  Later Henry Orlac ends up dead and Stephen is the prime suspect.  Stephen, growing more distraught over his inability to play and the strange fact that his hands can throw objects with such precision goes to meet with a man who says he can answer all of Stephen’s questions.  The man is (supposedly) the murderer Rollo, telling Stephen that the hands are his and he wants them back. 

Stephen tells Yvonne that he must turn himself in to the police and Yvonne goes to see Dr. Gogol seeking help.  What she finds is a man who has truly gone mad.  Gogol believes the wax statue of Yvonne has come to life out of love for him.  Stephen, an American reporter Regan (Ted Healy) and the police arrive at Gogol’s home, but are they in time to save Yvonne from the psychotic and dangerous Gogol?

Karl Freund, a native of Germany only directed eleven films during his career, but was so much more prolific as a cinematographer and director of photography, working on such films as Metropolis (1927), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), and Key Largo (1948). 

Freund’s directing of Mad Love took it to a higher level of horror than the original The Hands of Orlac and he certainly had Peter Lorre to thank for that.  Lorre is brilliant whenever he plays a damaged or deranged character and as Gogol he oozes creepiness.  Gogol is clearly a man who walks the fine line between genius and insanity.  He is one of the best surgeons in Europe but clearly his obsession for Yvonne is leading towards a total mental breakdown.  Gogol is wonderfully disturbing and the best part of this film.  I wasn’t thrilled with Frances Drake’s performance as Yvonne.  I thought at times she was too cold to be believed, whether put off by Gogol or showing affection to her husband.  And Colin Clive showed much more emotion as Henry Frankenstein (Frankenstein 1931). 

Overall Mad love is an above average film, if only for Peter Lorre, but I suggest you see the silent The Hands of Orlac (1924) as well.  In my opinion, it is a superior film.

Runtime: 68 minutes
MGM Studios                                                                        

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