Directed by Karl Freund [Other horror films: Dracula (1931), The Mummy (1932)]
This is a classic of 30’s horror, and a definite recommendation to any other fans of the golden era of the genre.
Based off the French novel Le Mains d’Orlac (in English, The Hands of Orlac), this movie may be short (just around an hour and eight minutes), but it carries with it a lot of suspense and solid acting. The story works better here than other adaptations or rip-offs of the novel I’ve seen (such as Hands of a Stranger from 1962) because it focuses more on the crazy surgeon as opposed to the character who got a hand transplant.
Peter Lorre is the reason that this works so well – his character is so utterly insane that it’s rather amazing watching his onscreen performance (especially the conclusion). How he attempted to mess with Colin Clive’s character was both creative and rather creepy. Lorre’s by far one of the best reasons to watch this, which is saying something, as it’s already a really good film. Clive (who played Henry Frankenstein twice before his early death in 1937) was solid here too, as was Frances Drake, but Lorre, unsurprisingly, blew them out of the water.
One of the actresses was used almost purely for comedic relief, and was the one real downside of the film. Admittedly, when she said, referring to a wax statue, “it went for a little walk,” I laughed quite a bit. The director of this film, Karl Freund, also directed The Mummy, which is where that line originates from, so hearing it pop up again was pretty funny.
Mad Love is one of those films that might not seem as though it’s in the same league as Frankenstein or Dracula, or even Freaks, but it’s a shining light during the 30’s horror output. 1935 was also one of the last decent years for horror until 1941 or so, which only helps it’s case. Certainly the story is well-crafted, and the conclusion rather suspenseful, showing Lorre’s full madness, so if you’re a fan of the classics of the genre, and you’ve not yet given this a watch, I’d recommend doing so, as it’s just as spectacular now as when I last saw it.