Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Mad Love

(vt The Hands of Orlac) US Movie (1935). MGM. Pr John W Considine Jr. Dir Karl Freund. Screenplay John Balderston, P J Wolfson. Based on adaptation by Guy Endore of Les Mains d'Orlac (1920) by Maurice Renard (1875-1940). Starring May Beatty (Françoise), Edward Brophy (Rollo), Colin Clive (Stephen Orlac), Frances Drake (Yvonne Orlac), Sara Haden (Marie), Ted Healy (Reagan), Peter Lorre (Dr Gogol). 70 mins. B/w.

Genius surgeon Gogol is besotted with Yvonne Orlac, star of a Grand-Guignol-style theatre in Montmartre, but she is married to brilliant pianist Stephen. Stephen's hands are mangled in a train crash. Yvonne manipulates Gogol's obsession with her to make him save the hands; he does the next best thing, covertly stitching on instead those of Circus knife-thrower and convicted murderer Rollo. Stephen finds his new hands lousy at piano-playing but uncannily skilled at knife-throwing. Gogol frames Stephen for murder, persuading even Stephen of his guilt. Through fingerprinting, the police come to believes the hands, not Stephen, were guilty. They rush to Gogol's clinic, where they find Gogol strangling Yvonne. Only Orlac's hands, throwing a knife, can save her.

This Technofantasy, a remake of The Hands of Orlac (1924), is claimed as a major influence on Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941). An important subplot concerns the waxwork of Yvonne which Gogol buys from a theatre foyer and has his drunken housemaid Françoise tend, in the belief that the myth of Galatea (> Pygmalion) might be reenacted – as indeed it seems to him later to be, with the real Yvonne masquerading as the waxwork. [JG]

see also: The Hands of Orlac (1960).

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.