Film: Mad Love

"Each man kills the thing he loves!"

Mad Love is a 1935 horror film directed by Karl Freund, starring Peter Lorre. Lorre is Dr. Gogol, a super-creepy Paris surgeon—it turns out that Peter Lorre got even creepier if you made him bald. Dr. Gogol is a big fan of the "Théâtre des Horreurs", a theater troupe that stages horror shows (patterned after the Real Life Grand Guignol theater). Specifically, he is an obsessive, stalkerish fan of lead actress Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake). Yvonne is clearly creeped out by Dr. Gogol, and even if she weren't, she's already married, to English concert pianist Stephen Orlac (Colin Clive, best remembered for playing Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein).

The Orlacs' happiness is ruined when Stephen, coming back to Paris after a concert tour, is in a train wreck that smashes both of his hands. A desperate Yvonne goes to Dr. Gogol, who performs a hand transplant surgery. Unfortunately for Stephen, the donor hands come from a convicted murderer. Things do not go well.

Mad Love was the tenth and last film directed by Freund, who spent spent the bulk of his career as a very famous, award-winning cinematographer. It was the first American film for Lorre, who had fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and acted in England and France for a while. It is an adaptation of the short story "The Hands of Orlac", which had been previously made in 1924 as The Hands of Orlac, and was filmed for a third time in 1960 as The Hands of Orlac with Christopher Lee. Keye Luke from the Charlie Chan films plays Gogol's assistant.

Not to be confused with the trope named Mad Love, which is not used in this film.


Tropes:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Yvonne is clearly horrified when Gogol propositions her, and grossed out when he makes her kiss him at her honeymoon party. This does not stop her from going to him to help Stephen.
  • Affably Evil: Rollo is a cheerful, happy-go-lucky fellow who likes to sign autographs. Unless you make him angry, at which point you should be ready to duck.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: This is what Yvonne acts out in her part of the "Théâtre des Horreurs" show. Her character is put on a rack.
  • Creepy Doll: Or the functional equivalent thereof, with the wax dummy model of Yvonne that Dr. Gogol keeps in his home as a substitute for the real thing. The fact that it's not a wax dummy but actress Frances Drake holding herself really, really still only serves to heighten the effect.
  • Evil Hand: After Rollo the murderer's hands are grafted onto Stephen, Stephen develops a compulsion to fling knives at people when he gets angry.
  • Gaslighting: Dr. Gogol was initially motivated by a sincere desire to help Stephen—or rather, to endear himself to Yvonne—but after things go wrong, he decides to drive Stephen mad so that he can get Yvonne for himself.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "There's queer people on the streets of Montmarte at this time of night."
  • Hearing Voices: Dr. Gogol, who has gone completely around the bend, starts hearing voices telling him to kill Yvonne during their final confrontation.
  • Impairment Shot: Dr. Gogol's alcoholic maid is seeing double after she wakes up.
  • I Need A Drink: The American newspaper reporter has to take a swig from his flask after witnessing Rollo's decapitation.
  • Knife Nut: Rollo was a circus performer who threw knives, having trained himself from youth.
  • Mad Scientist: Let's use a convicted murderer's hands! What can go wrong?
  • The Man in the Mirror Talks Back: Which is a bad thing in this instance, as the man in the mirror is Dr. Gogol's crazy side. Gogol stumbles out of surgery upon hearing that Yvonne has come to see him. He sees his reflection in the mirror, and then the reflection changes to him in street clothes, saying "Nothing matters to you but one thing: Yvonne—Yvonne in your arms."
  • Quitting to Get Married: Actually, Yvonne and Stephen have been married for a year, but he's been away on his concert tour. Now that he's coming home, she's quitting showbiz.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Gogol quotes Robert Browning's poem "Porphyria's Lover", about a crazed murderer who strangles his lover.
    • The maid's "It went out for a little walk!" is a lift from Boris Karloff's The Mummy.
  • Stalker with a Crush: After Yvonne rejects him, Dr. Gogol buys the theater's wax dummy of her. And he has his cleaning lady brush the dummy's hair every day. And he buys the dummy a negligee.