A Movie A Day: MAD LOVE (1935)
You’ll be dead soon, dearie. He likes dead things.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the next installment of A Movie A Day: Halloween 2010 edition!
[For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf or streamed via Netflix Instant and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.]
Goddamn I love Peter Lorre. From M to Casablanca to The Raven and now, Mad Love the man is one of those characters that constantly has your attention whenever he’s on screen.
And what a showstopper he has with the character of Dr. Gogol. Not only is Dr. Gogol iconic, with his shaved head and buggy eyes, he’s a classic tortured character. Gogol is rich, a brilliant doctor that started from poverty and has the entire world at his whim. Except that he was cursed at birth with air of creepiness.
He’s not so much deformed, this isn’t a Hunchback story, but his overall demeanor is creepy. As such he’s never known love (translated: he’s a virigin).
Like many of us, this weirdo falls in love with an actress. This one, played by Frances Drake, stars in a macabre play. I wish more theater was like this… monsters at the door, skeletons in the lobby, a headless coat checker, etc.
Dr. Gogol sits in the shadows of the top tier box seat for every performance, sends anonymous flowers and after some 40+ shows he gathers up the courage to approach this actress on the final night of the show.
She’s of course grateful for his loyalty. Behind closed doors she calls him “her public,” but he thinks there’s a stronger connection there.
The trick here is that he’s not played as a monster. He’s socially awkward as a lot of brilliant people are, but no more than 90% of the people that attend Comic-Con. The man has saved deformed soldiers, helped children, saved countless lives. Before this story I believe Dr. Gogol was damn near a saint.
Then in comes obsession and opportunity that is too tempting for him to ignore.
He’s crushed to find out Drake’s Yvonne Orlac is married to a concert pianist, played by Dr. Frankenstein himself, Colin Clive, but seems to be resigned to it. Then fate throws him a curveball.
That curveball is in the form of a train wreck as Clive is en route to meet his wife, who is about to quit acting for good in order to spend more time with her loving, but constantly traveling husband.
Clive survives, but his hands do not and who should show up begging Dr. Gogol for help, but the object of his desire.
His diagnoses is the same as the other doctors. The hands have to be amputated, but then, inspired by the chance to impress his love, Gogol gets the idea to attempt something never before accomplished and proceeds to arrange for a pair of hands from a recently executed murderer, a knife-thrower no less, and does the first ever transplant.
We’ve seen this concept taken in some pretty crappy movies (to be fair I like Jeff Fahey’s BODY PARTS a lot), but by now we all know this isn’t good news for Clive. Sure enough, the transplant works and he starts getting the itch to stick some fools whenever his temper flares up.
If that was the main thrust of the story it’d be a fairly quaint film, but what elevates it is that’s more of the side story, an excuse for Lorre’s obsession to fully take form, which leads him down the road of insanity and murder.
There’s a scene in the movie where Lorre is talking to his mirrored reflection, a representation of his rational mind and irrational mind fighting for control, that reminded me so much of what Peter Jackson did with Gollum in The Two Towers that I suspect Jackson had this flick on the brain when he, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens cracked how to show the Gollum/Smeagol duality visually.
Another moment worth mentioning is a scene where Clive, now thought to have murdered his asshole stepfather, is called to meet a mysterious stranger with metal hands. We don’t get a look at the stranger until the very end when he claims to be the beheaded murderer whose hands Clive now possesses.
The man reveals his face and neck, showing a crazy contraption, and says that Gogol fixed his head just like he fixed Clive’s hands and laughs maniacally.
The visual is like a Nazi nightmare. Check him out:
That’s a genuinely creepy visage, is it not?
If the movie had gone a little more in that direction it would have been one of my all time favorites, but instead we learn that’s not really a dead man with his head fixed on, but rather Gogol himself trying to convince Clive he’s a murderer in order to steal his wife.
There’s a lot of levity to the film, especially in the form of Gogol’s drunken housemaid, played by May Beatty. You know you’re in for a good character when she slurs her words and has a white parrot on her shoulder.
Director Karl Freund (famous cinematographer of films like METROPOLIS, DRACULA and KEY LARGO as well as director of THE MUMMY) does a great job here, especially with the character work. Everybody has a shade of gray to them, nobody is inherently good, bad, total victim or total villain. I also love creative credits and the final list of opening credits are painted on a window that a hand comes in and smashes, bringing us into the movie. Love stuff like that.
The only thing that got me scratching my head was just how odd the 1995 remake was. Drew Barrymore was nothing like Frances Drake and Chris O’Donnell wasn’t willing to go bald for the part. Hell, it’s not even a horror movie. What a shitty remake.
Final Thoughts: Peter Lorre is amazing here, giving a star-making performance (at least a star-making performance for anybody who didn’t see M). It’s a beautiful black and white movie that runs by in it’s short 68 minute runtime and has just enough of the tragic Universal monster feel of the era to make you sympathize with Dr. Gogol without making it feel like a rip-off. Very strong picture.
Currently in print on DVD: YES
Currently available on Netflix Instant: NO
Here are the next week’s worth of AMAD titles:
Sunday, October 17th: REPULSION (1965)
Monday, October 18th: THE VIDEO DEAD (1987)
Tuesday, October 19th: THE BLACK CAT (1981)
Wednesday, October 20th: THE BLACK CAT (1934)
Thursday, October 21st: THE COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963)
Friday, October 22nd: DOLLS (1987)
Saturday, October 23rd: SILENT SCREAM (1980)
Tomorrow is Polanski's REPULSION! See you folks then!
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Previous AMAD 2010’s:
- Raw Meat (1972)
- Ghost Story (1981)
- Two on a Guillotine (1965)
- Tentacles (1977)
- Bad Ronald (1974)
- The Entity (1983)
- Doctor X (1932)
- The Return of Doctor X (1939)
- The Tenant (1976)
- Man in the Attick (1953)
- New Year’s Evil (1980)
- Prophecy (1979)
- The Other (1972)
- The Mummy (1959)
- The Gorgon (1964)
Click here for the full 215 movie run of A Movie A Day!
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Oct. 16, 2010, 10:06 p.m. CST
Who can forget the spike jones 'my old flame' done in imitation Lorre, what a cool character actor! was I first?
Oct. 16, 2010, 10:07 p.m. CST
OMG i WAS! SORRY, BUT IT'S THE FIRST TIME IN, WHAT,20 YEARS?!?
Oct. 16, 2010, 10:19 p.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
Every time I hear Lorre deliver that line in The Maltese Falcon, I immediately think of Ren Hoek.
Oct. 16, 2010, 11:34 p.m. CST
by frank cotton
Oct. 17, 2010, 12:09 a.m. CST
Oct. 17, 2010, 12:10 a.m. CST
Oct. 17, 2010, 12:27 a.m. CST
Oct. 17, 2010, 1:04 a.m. CST
Okay, when entering into this type of enterprise, using this idea to catch up on a bunch of lesser known horror movies... well obviously the bulk of the really famous/popular ones, you're already going to have seen. But is there no middle ground between that, and what you're doing here? Like, so many of these seem like truly bottom of the barrel movies, titles that quite frankly appear lucky to even have an existence for a handful of people to ever see them again. REALLY obscure, and/or old titles. And to not mince words, yea I gotta think there's a good likelihood many of these will be downright AWFUL.<br> <br> So I'm saying, there aren't horror titles that occupy more of a middle ground in the popularity/hit scale that you could use this time to catch up on, ones where you'd perhaps have a higher percentage chance of happening upon ones that are significantly worth your viewing time? I mean, if this is what you wanna do, more power to ya, I'm just saying...
Oct. 17, 2010, 2:31 a.m. CST
by jasper Stillwell
Damn, Lorre was a class act alright. Good to see you reminding that 'old' is not necessarily 'worthless'. Keep it up. This is what a site like this should be about. Although the '90% at Comic Con' might be looking for you next time out....
Oct. 17, 2010, 4:49 a.m. CST
as in Sutherland. Watch him brilliantly channel Lorre in "Dark City". Just mentioning it for the younglings on here who might not have seen that film.
Oct. 17, 2010, 5:02 a.m. CST
Oct. 17, 2010, 5:32 a.m. CST
The ignorance of TBers I can fathom, but the contributers too? Only thing common between two is the title.
Oct. 17, 2010, 6:50 a.m. CST
by Incomplete Gamer
You do realize he was joking, right? I think you may have missed a lesson on internet sarcasm.
Oct. 17, 2010, 7 a.m. CST
...I think of Raimi's Spider-man, which beat Gollum into theaters back in the year they both came out (2002?). Either way though, this sounds like a film both directors would have seen. <br><br>And personally, my favorite remake of the film is the one starring Harley Quinn.
Oct. 17, 2010, 7:39 a.m. CST
"we learn that’s not really a dead man with his head fixed on, but rather Gogol himself trying to convince Clive he’s a murderer in order to steal his wife." could've gone w/o saying the dude was Gogol.
Oct. 17, 2010, 8:34 a.m. CST
and the Peter Lorre bio from University of Kentucky press a couple of years ago is really impressive. His years with Brecht, a great photo of him as a beheaded puppet from the original "Spring Awakening" - lots of good stuff.
Oct. 17, 2010, 8:51 a.m. CST
As in Ted Healy and His Three Stooges?
Oct. 17, 2010, 9:44 a.m. CST
If you know your horror films, 'Mad Love' is a horror classic - as is the earlier 'Hands of Orlac'.
Oct. 17, 2010, 11:07 a.m. CST
Take THAT, Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick!
Oct. 17, 2010, 12:24 p.m. CST
I think it is worth noting that the Gogol character also greatly influence the look of "old" Charles Foster Kane in Welles' Citizen Kane (both bold, old, bizarre makeup, bulging eyes). Also, while Karl Freund was an excellent cinematographer, he spent a few years lighting "I Love Lucy"...I can only imagine how unfulfilling it must have been for poor Freund, used to and influenced by German Expressionist films, to have to light a high-key TV show with very flat lighting day after day. I agree with the poster that you should not have divulged that Gogol was the decapitated man...lastly, I watch this movie in a classroom full of students who were very dismissive of the film at first, but CHEERED LOUDLY and CLAP at the end, when the climax takes place. Are you sure you meant to say "brevity" instead of "levity"?
Oct. 17, 2010, 12:25 p.m. CST
Oct. 17, 2010, 12:53 p.m. CST
I believe you're trying to imply that perhaps there are films in existence that were created by humans, that perhaps, have less merit than some other films that were also created by humans. So what parameters are you using to define and create these assessments? Are you saying because it's old and not in color that it's not worth discovering whether or not it's amazing? Well considering that every object tells a story and every film is a time capsule of people living under the rules of their time/governments/etc- there are just so many reasons to explore all of cinema from every era that I'm just glad to have some fellow who's job is to sift through it all
Oct. 17, 2010, 1:34 p.m. CST
Incredible movie, with beautiful art direction, a witty script and superb performances. And Frances Drake is so easy on the eyes!
Oct. 17, 2010, 1:35 p.m. CST
And i say this as a compliment to both actors.
Oct. 17, 2010, 1:59 p.m. CST
I don't often get involved in the talkbacks, though I read the site every day. Just wanted to thank you for this. I always got a kick out of the 'Movie a Day' column while you were doing it, and I particularly enjoy the horror slant. Loved reading your take on Prophecy. I remember renting it about 15 years ago (my buddy and I went through the horror section of the local video store in alphabetical order one summer before we had jobs, lives and wives). I remember howling with laughter over that damn bear. Anyhow, keep up the good work. You're a damn fine writer and interviewer, and your little side projects are a hoot. Just sayin.
Oct. 17, 2010, 5:16 p.m. CST
Been meaning to get around to watching MAD LOVE and now I have no reason to hurry, do I? Better off waiting a few months and hope I forget your review.
Oct. 17, 2010, 6:51 p.m. CST
isn't it a little silly to complain about spoilers in a review of a 75 year old movie?
Oct. 17, 2010, 6:55 p.m. CST
by nylon raider
Quint you are a f**king star for bringing us this feature-Its a shame some people forget so easily that this is a MOVIE site for people who also love everything about the history and craft of cinema- MOVIES that have influenced us all-the moviegoers and the moviemakers -not just the big budget cookie cutter dreck that fills the local multiplex. Works of imagination!. I dont care if a movie is 80 years old and cost 50 bucks to make - if its got a good idea or a strong visual or an actor gets to portray a memorable character then its worth my time. All the Speilbergs , Scorceses and the Tarantinos and every damn film maker who has achieved something worthwhile have soaked up the history of cinema and learned from the process and been inspired by what has gone before .Trust me -they love these movies. 'Most every other news story on this site features classic movies being remade by brain donors ,Fanboys arguing over comicbook superpowers until the inevitable trollfest,or some new blockbuster based on TOYS ( always seemed to me it should be the other way round)-Here its different- I LEARN stuff about these movies that I didn't know and Quint deserves a medal for bringing us this feature.These movies aren't the bottom of the barrel - they are the stuff of inspiration and deserve to revisited and enjoyed."Mad Love"? Genius. scared the crap of me as a 12 year old way back watching after midnight on an ancient B&W portable in a dark empty house. Seriously I could rant for hours but Mrs Raider wants the macbook back and she's not taking no for an answer.Thanks again Quint.
Oct. 18, 2010, 2:48 a.m. CST
price of that useless MacBook. Maybe 5. All you can do with that MacBook is surf and use Photoshop.
Oct. 18, 2010, 4:29 a.m. CST
by nylon raider
Yeh apart from the music i make on it the graphics I create the movies I watch and the video chat and the animations i render and the photos i edit and the invoices i print its useless..... : )
Oct. 18, 2010, 9:07 a.m. CST
I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that was written tonge in cheek. And I love AMAD, Quint.
Oct. 18, 2010, 9:45 a.m. CST
Oct. 18, 2010, 3:03 p.m. CST
This film is indeed an amazing work. It is in a completely different league then the majority of the movies in this year's list.
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