Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mad Love

Mad Love is the great Peter Lorre’s American film debut. What a beginning to a career that will pair him up with Humphrey Bogart and give him his own detective Mad Love, he cuts a brilliant, but tragic figure. He plays Dr. Golgol, a brilliant surgeon who has, as is noted, saved countless children and maimed soldiers in his career. But Golgol has been cursed with a short, stocky frame with a bald head and bulging eyes. He may appear to have it all, but the one thing perpetually out of his reach is true love. He is just too darn freakish.

His behavior has much to do with that. When we first meet him, e distending a theater performance by Yvonne Orlac, played by the scrumptious Frances Drake, for the fortieth night in a row. He is carrying a torch for her desperately. On this night, he finally meets her face to face after sending gifts. The meeting does not result in her falling in love. In fact, he feels patronized. What is worse, he learns she is married to a gifted pianist. So she is totally out of his grasp anyway.

Gogol sees his chance to win her over when her husband’s hands are crushed in a train accident. He secretly transplants the hands of a recently executed knife murderer onto his body after every doctor has advised amputation instead. Performing the ‘miracle” of saving her husband’s hands still does not impress her. Gogol descends even further into madness. He now wants to frame her husband for murder.

The plan becomes extraordinarily easy to pull off as the man egins demonstratig an expertise with throwing knives and a growing temper. Gogol meets the man one night after he thinks he has murdered his father over an argument about money. Gogol is wearing the disguise pictured above. He claims to be the knife murderer with is ead reattached by Gogol, but metal hands in the place of those attached to the pianist husband. Their confrontation is theocracies bit in the film. It really makes the whole movie.

Not that Mad Love is not packed with such moments. Gogol has a conversation with himself in a mirror to represent the conflict between his sane and insane selves. He also talks to a wax stature of Yvonne he stole from the theater. He keeps it upstairs I his home and talks to it frequently. The husband’s new found penchant for knife throwing factors into the climax in a surprising way.

Mad Love is genuinely terrifying, particularly for 1935. The scary parts are contrasted by infrequent, but effective comic relief. Te bits usually involve Golgol’s alcoholic housekeeper, who is completely oblivious to everything that is going on around her. She appears to only be aware of the parrot perpetually perched on her shoulder. Te rest are from Ted Healey, who plays a journalist digging for the whole story. You may recall Healey was originally teamed with The Three Stooges in Vaudeville before they struck out on their own.

I loved this film. For me, this was what horror is all about. No blood orguts, just tightening the screws as horrible things happen to people in seemingly ordinary situations. Mad Love runs at a very brisk pace, so some may feel like the story is not well developed. That is an unfair criticism considering how quickly you get the feel for the characters. No onw in the film is a particularly good or bad person, so you have mixed emotions about the thins that apen to tem. Watch the film, and you will be transfixed on trying to decide with whom you sympathize. You will not notice the too quick time jumps. In fact, you will have an 9u)righteously good time.

Rating; ***** (out of 5)

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