DEAD HANDS THAT LIVE… AND LOVE… AND KILL!
When concert pianist Stephen Orlac’s (Colin Clive) hands are crushed in an accident, Dr. Gogol (Peter Lorre) is hired to give him a new pair in a transplant… but they belonged to a killer. Karl Freund, a cinematographer who directed the greatest version of The Mummy in 1932, knew how to conjure horrifying images and this absurd and twisted chiller is a minor gem. In his first American film, Lorre is perfect as the bald genius who’s simply looking for a little love; his Gogol is a scary but ultimately pathetic and vulnerable man. Clive fell victim to his monster in Frankenstein (1931), and he pretty much does the same shtick here.
1935-U.S. 70 min. B/W. Produced by John Considine, Jr. Directed by Karl Freund. Screenplay: P.J. Wolfson, John L. Balderston. Novel: Maurice Renard (”The Hands of Orlac”). Cast: Peter Lorre (Dr. Gogol), Frances Drake (Yvonne Orlac), Colin Clive (Stephen Orlac), Ted Healy, Sara Haden, Edward Brophy.
Trivia: Alternative title: The Hands of Orlac. Another later version of the story is The Hands of Orlac (1960).
Last word: “Make-up’s an excuse for an inability to act. You can cheat people with a lot of make-up. An actor should find his expressions in his naked face. I would rather depend on facial expressions and the right shading of light to get the effect I desire, instead of resorting to the actual methods of disguise. [Shaving my head] gives the idea that this character thinks of his science only and not of personal appearance.” (Lorre, “The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre”)