Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Hands of Orlac, The [1960]

(vt Les Mains d'Orlac; vt Hands of a Strangler) (1960). UK/French movie. Riviera/Pendennis/Britannia/Continental. Pr Steven Pallos, Donald Taylor. Dir Edmond T Gréville (French version Jacques Lemare). Screenplay John Baines, Gréville, Taylor. Novelization The Hands of Orlac * (1961) by Robert Bateman. Starring Felix Aylmer (Dr Francis Cochrane), Dany Carrel (Li-Lang), Mel Ferrer (Stephen/Steven Orlac), Christopher Lee (Néron), Lucile Saint Simon (Louise Cochrane), Yanilou (Emilie). 105 mins, cut to 95 mins. B/w.

Generally listed as a remake of Mad Love (1935), this has a quite different story. US pianist Orlac crashes while flying to Paris to visit fiancée Louise. Brilliant surgeon Dr Volcheff either (it is left ambiguous) miraculously repairs Orlac's badly damaged hands or replaces them using those of guillotined strangler Louis Vasseur; whichever, Orlac has an Hallucination that newspaper headlines show the latter to be the case. Later, lovemaking with Louise, he almost strangles her; he flees with his guilty hands. Much blood and tears are shed before the police discover Vasseur was innocent – so Orlac's hands, whatever their origins, are not those of a strangler.

THOO was shot simultaneously in French and English, with some clumsy dubbing. It is raised above humdrum through its ambiguity as to the source of Orlac's "new" hands, which gives it interest as both a Psychological Thriller and fantasy of Perception. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.