31 March 2004 | Gafke
Brilliant Gothic Horror
Apparently, Peter Lorre only agreed to do this film because he had been promised the lead in "Crime & Punishment" afterwards if he did it. I've seen both films, and though Lorre was magnificent in both, I prefer this one. I'm so glad he agreed to do it.
"Mad Love" is the story of Doctor Gogol, brilliant Parisian surgeon whose reputation for doing surgeries on desperate cases free of charge is well- renowned. But Doctor Gogol is a morbid man as well, gleefully attending public beheadings and taking orgasmic delight in the Grand Guignol Theatre de Horreur, which stages realistic horror plays. The star of the Theatre is Yvonne, and Doctor Gogol is madly in love with her, hence the title of our film. But Yvonne is already married to Stephen Orlac, a famous concert pianist. Doctor Gogol, with his bald head and buggy eyes, gives her the creeps and her distaste for him is clear. However, when her husbands train crashes and his million-dollar hands are destroyed, it is Doctor Gogol she turns to. Desperate to win the love of Yvonne, Gogol agrees to do the impossible. Stephen Orlac is saved...but only Gogol knows that his hands are no longer his own. They once belonged to a killer, and they want to kill again.
Lorre turns in yet another astonishing performance here; his Gogol is very convincing, quite capable of handling a few lines of cornball dialogue without seeming foolish in the least. And the sympathy he elicits is simply amazing; I found myself cheering for him the whole time instead of for Yvonne, who struck me as a cold, opportunistic gold digger, quite willing to use the Doctor if it served her purpose. I'm sure this was not the intent of the filmmakers, but Lorre emerges as the hero here, at least in my humble opinion. Toward the end of the film, he is completely unleashed, playing mad, wild music on the organ and donning a most hideous metal contraption which looks like something that H. R. Giger might have designed.
This beautiful black-and-white film by MGM rivals the classic monsters of Universal, and placed Peter Lorre alongside such horror movie icons as Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price. Reportedly, Lorre detested these horror film roles that made him famous, but his resentment never shows through; he threw himself into this and every role with creativity and zeal. He is truly marvelous to watch. Mad Love should not be missed by fans of old, spooky Gothic tales. It is a masterpiece.