Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 15th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: USA, July 12th, 1935
Director: Karl Freund
Writers: P.J. Wolfson, John L. Balderston
Cast: Peter Lorre, Frances Drake, Colin Clive, Ted Healy, Sara Haden, Edward Brophy, Henry Kolker, Keye Luke, May Beatty
DVD released: October 10th, 2006
Approximate running time: 68 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
DVD Release: Warner Brothers
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $39.98 (Only Available as part of the Hollywood’s Legends of Horror Collection)
Synopsis: Doctor Gogol an experimental surgeon becomes obsessed with Yvonne Orlac an actress who is repulsed by him. Yvonne is forced to ask beg for Doctor Gogol’s help when her husband Stephen Orlac a world famous pianist severely damages his hands in a train wreck. Doctor Gogol replaces Stephen’s damaged hands with hands from a recently deceased murderer.
The two main creative forces behind Mad Love were Peter Lorre and director Karl Freund. Mad Love was Peter Lorre’s Hollywood debut and only his second picture in English. His first English film being The Man Who knew Too Much. Karl Freund spent most of his career working as a cinematographer on films like Metropolis, All Quiet on the Western Front, Dracula (1931) and Key Largo. In the 1950’s Karl Freund while working on the T.V. series “I Love Lucy” would pioneer the three camera technique that has been used in virtually every comedy sitcom since. Karl Freund was not as prolific as a director with films like The Mummy (1933) and his final film as director Mad Love standing out classic examples of Hollywood’s golden age of horror. Mad Love was adapted from the Maurice Renard’s novel “The Hands of Orlac”.
Visually Mad Love is filled with German expressionism in the way it is photographed and the way the sets are designed and manipulated for visual effect. The opening credits are some of the most creative from this era of Hollywood with the titles being written on windows and a hand breaking the window at the end. Surprisingly the cinematography for, Mad love was not shot by Karl Freund even though it bears his distinctive style. The cinematographers’ on Mad Love were Chester A. Lyons and Gregg Toland who would later gain fame as the cinematographer for his work on the Orson Welles film Citizen Kane. The score for Mad Love was composed by Dimitri Tiomkin. The score is very effective and adds a lot to the atmosphere of the film.
When discussing Mad Love one can not overlook the presence of Peter Lorre who’s performance ranks amongst his finest work. Peter Lorre is most remembered for playing sinister character like Hans Beckert in Fritz Lang’s “M” and the stranger in “Stranger on the Third Floor”. Doctor Gogol is not a character that is without any redeeming qualities. When he is first introduced he is a man who helps the less fortune as his clinic. His mental state starts too decay when finds out that Yvonne a woman he has become smitten with is leaving the world of acting to be with her husband. Doctor Gogol only agrees to help Yvonne because he wants to be near her. His plan almost pays off when Yvonne’s Stephen husband starts to lose his grip on reality when his new hands develop a mind all their own. In the role of Stephen Orlac is Universal horror icon Colin Clive who horror fans will certainly remember him from Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. It is almost appropriate that Doctor Gogol like Frankenstein before him create monsters because they use human body parts taken from murderers.
The plot for Mad Love may be as bloody and as violent by today’s standards. Mad Love was so controversial when it was first released that many scenes had to be trimmed and in some foreign country’s additional scenes that are in the American version were also cut. Mad Love is the purest example of what a true horror film should be. The film builds tension through its visuals which imply things more than showing them. Leaving what is going on for the viewers’ imagination only further drives home Doctor Gogol’s dementia. One of the most frightening and memorable moments in the films occurs when Doctor Gogol poses as the recently executed murderer Rollo the Knife Thrower. The metal hands and neck prosthetic are a visual nightmare that cannot be described in mere words.
Ultimately Mad Love is nothing short of masterpiece which features Peter Lorre and Karl Freund’s best work of their careers.
Mad Love is presented in a full frame aspect ratio that retains the film’s original aspect ratio. The black & white image looks sharp and black levels remain strong throughout. Overall for a film that is over seventy years old this transfer looks really good and print damage in minimal.
This release comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. The audio sound clear, clean and evenly balanced. This mono mix while not dynamic it does sound better then the majority of films also on DVD from this era. Three subtitle options have been included with this release English, French, and Spanish.
Extras for Mad Love Include a trailer for the film and an audio commentary with Steve Haberman, author of “Chronicles of Terror”.
Mad Love is only available as part of Warner Brothers Hollywood’s Legends of Horror Collection which also includes these titles Doctor X, The Return of Doctor X, The Devil Doll, Mark of the Vampire and The Mask of Fu Manchu. The six films include in the Warner Brothers Hollywood’s Legends of Horror Collection are presented on three double sided DVD’s. Extras for the other five films include audio commentaries for each film and trailers.
Overall Warner Brothers Hollywood’s Legends of Horror Collection is must have purchase that comes with a solid audio/video/extras presentation for all six films and best of all is this sets more then affordable retail price.