One year, one film: 1935

The film:
Mad Love, dir. Karl Freund
starring Peter Lorre, Frances Drake, Colin Clive

Recommended | HIGHLY RECOMMENDED | Must-See

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Peter Lorre stars in Mad Love as Doctor Gogol, a famed surgeon who has become obsessed with actress Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake). He watches her perform every night. Doctor Gogol is heartbroken when he discovers that Yvonne is already married, to a concert pianist named Stephen (Colin Clive).

When Stephen’s hands are injured in a train accident, Yvonne turns to Gogol for help, hoping that he’ll be able to put his skills as a surgeon to use and help Stephen. Gogol takes the opportunity to sabotage Yvonne’s marriage, replacing Stephen’s hands with those of a recently-executed murderer. This wouldn’t be a problem, if said killer’s hands hadn’t retained the urge to KILL! (Cue ominous music.)

All three of the film’s central players give good performances, though Peter Lorre nearly steals the entire show with his ultra-creepy performance as Gogol. Suspense builds, and thrills pop up as the film progresses.

So, what say the critics of the mid-’30s? They, too, thought Peter Lorre was absolutely the star of the show. “Mr. Lorre, with his gift for supplementing a remarkable physical appearance with his acute perception of the mechanics of insanity, cuts deeply into the darkness of the morbid brain,” wrote Andre Sennwald in The New York Times when the film screened at the Roxy Theatre in 1935.

Variety‘s review called the film “ideal starring material for Peter Lorre,” also writing: “Settings are strikingly effective and the camerawork far above average, director Karl Freund being a former cameraman and one of the best. Lorre’s fine performance does the rest.”

Picture Play Magazine offered a brief “Thumbnail Review” of the film: “Ingenious, if artificial, but absorbing always.”

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