Monday, October 19, 2009

31 Days of Halloween - Day 19 - Movie 1

"Mad Love" (1935) directed by Karl Freund is a beautifully shot movie, as is to be expected since Freund (who also directed "The Mummy" ) was a brilliant cinematographer. This movie packs a lot into it's short 65 minute running time, and is populated by an excellent cast of actors led by a sympathetic, yet disturbing Peter Lorre as the insane, but brilliant restorative surgeon, Dr. Gogol.

Obsessed with Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake) a beautiful actress, Gogol uses an unfortunate tragedy to try and bring her closer to him. Yvonne's husband, Stephen (Colin Clive) is a celebrated pianist whose hands are crushed in an accident. Gogol transplants the hands of a recently executed murderer to Stephen's body without telling him, or Yvonne that those hands are anything but his own. Soon Stephen's hands develop a penchant for knife throwing (a skill of their former owner) and he begins to suspect the truth. Gogol uses Stephen's mental anguish and new talent to frame him for murder so that he will be out of the picture leaving Yvonne to him.

This well-crafted drama seems like the perfect Tod Browning vehicle with its aspects of physical deformity and the carnival atmosphere of the Grand Guignol style theater where Yvonne works. The film is full of atmosphere and many bizarre touches. Lorre is truly fantastic in this as the alternately sympathetic and completely unhinged Dr. Gogol, overshadowing the other performers who do manage to hold their own quite well. Frances Drake delivers a layered performance as a woman at once appreciative of Gogol's aid, but repulsed by him as a suitor. Colin Clive gives a a wonderfully nervous performance as a man about to have a nervous breakdown, unfortunately not too far from reality for this fine actor. There are a couple of annoying characters here, the stereotypical drunk housekeeper and the brash, ill mannered American Reporter, but both become essential to the plot, so their presence becomes necessary and can be forgiven.

This is one of the best horror films of the 1930s and should not be missed.

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