MAD LOVE aka THE HANDS OF ORLAC (1935) Reviews and overview

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Mad Love – aka The Hands of Orlac – is a 1935 American horror film, an adaptation of Maurice Renard’s story The Hands of Orlac.


The film was directed by German-émigré film maker Karl Freund (cinematographer on Dracula [1931]; Murders in the Rue Morgue and director of The Mummy [1932]) from a screenplay by John L. Balderston and Guy Endore (author of The Werewolf of Paris).


The story had previously been adapted in 1924 as an Austrian film, Orlacs Hände, by director Robert Weine, with Conrad Veidt in the lead role. It was remade as The Hands of Orlac (1960) with Mel Ferrer and Christopher Lee.

Main cast:

Peter Lorre (M; The Raven; Tales of Terror), Frances Drake, Colin Clive (Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein).



Doctor Gogol is obsessed with actress Yvonne Orlac. When Stephen Orlac’s hands are destroyed in a train accident, Yvonne brings him to Gogol, who claims to be able to repair them. As Gogol becomes obsessed to the point that he will do anything to have Yvonne, Stephen finds that his new hands have made him into an expert knife thrower…



Mad Love is frequently excellent when Mr. Lorre is being: permitted to illuminate the dark and twisted recesses of Doctor Gogol’s brain. In the theatre des horreurs, which he attends night after night, you see him in his box watching his lady tortured upon the rack, veiling his eyes in an emotion which is both pain and sadistic joy as he listens to her screams.” Andre Sennwald, The New York Times, 1935

Mad Love is not much more than a super-Karloff melodrama, an interesting but pretty trivial adventure in Grand Guignol horror.” The New York Times, 1935


Mad Love has developed a reputation as something approaching a work of forgotten genius. Really, it’s nowhere near that good, but it is highly entertaining, and by watching it, you’ll get to see Peter Lorre in the role that would haunt him for the rest of his career.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting


“In bald head, characteristically silky nasal voice, and crying out such lines as “I, a poor peasant, have conquered science, why can’t I conquer love? You must be mine,” the craven twistedness of Lorre’s performance is amazing to watch. In fact, Gogol becomes such a fascinatingly twisted character that he overshadows the entire film.” Moria


“Really a wonderful horror film and a great way for the classic film fan to break out beyond the Universal classics…”  Immortal Ephemera

“The type of picture that brought about censorship.” Motion Picture Herald, 1935



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Cast and characters:

  • Peter Lorre as Doctor Gogol. 
  • Frances Drake as Yvonne Orlac.
  • Colin Clive as Stephen Orlac. 
  • Ted Healy as Reagan, an American reporter
  • Sara Haden as Marie, Yvonne’s maid
  • Edward Brophy as Rollo the Knife Thrower
  • Henry Kolker as Prefect Rosset
  • Keye Luke as Doctor Wong
  • May Beatty as Françoise, Gogol’s drunken housekeeper

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