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Mad Love (1935)/The Beast With Five Fingers (1948)

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Mr. Arkadin
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Mad Love (1935)/The Beast With Five Fingers (1948)

Postby Mr. Arkadin » January 1st, 2008, 4:42 pm

We’re getting a Peter Lorre twofer tomorrow in the horror genre. Mad Love (1935) and The Beast with Five Fingers (1948) were made well over ten years apart, but both deal with pianists, severed hands, and a succumbing to madness.

Mad Love is the better known of the pair and deservedly so. A talking remake of The Hands of Orlac (1924) (Kino will re-release a restoration of the silent version this year!), Lorre and Karl Freund make this film their own with ingenious sets and a Tour de Force performance. Pauline Kael in her article Raising Kane, accused Orson Welles of borrowing set ideas and his older Kane makeup from this film, and there does seem to be a connection.

Colin Clive, who is this time the recipient of a crazed doctors fanaticism instead of the perpetrator, is superb here (“This is my pen.”). His wonderful imbalanced nature is well played, but probably owed some debt to his alcoholism, which was reaching it’s final stages at this time.

The Beast with Five Fingers is an entirely different kettle of fish, dealing more with special effects than individual performances. Nevertheless, Lorre does a fine job here and the film contains many interesting twists. Max Steiner also creates one of the more disturbing scores of his career in a film about a murdered pianist whose severed hand stalks the living.

In seeing Stranger on the Third Floor (1940) again recently, I was struck by the similarities in Lorre’s characters. Although the films are quite different they both play out in a whodunit style fashion with nightmarish sequences. The audience perception is the dividing factor, as director Robert Florey puts the hard task of distinguishing dream from reality in our laps for most of the film.

Lorre was capable of much more than crazed maniacs (Don’t miss his wonderful role in Three Strangers [1946] coming up in March), but was mostly typecast by Hollywood directors that never tapped the broader range of his talents. His performances here are incredible and you can see how it’s not just his eyes or facial movements, but the way he carries his body. Notice how he will make himself rigid and taut and then go limp working the two back and forth in a series of climaxes and releases as his characters lose touch with reality. While equally adept at comedy and other roles, it’s understandable these are the types of films he is remembered for. One last note, if you are a pianist, I urge you to practice before viewing. You might not feel up to it afterwards.

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jdb1

Postby jdb1 » January 2nd, 2008, 12:10 pm

I think I've been a little in love with Lorre all my life. He was a wonderful actor and a bright and roguish character in real life. He had some serious problems (doctor-induced drug addiction, for one) which he struggled all his life to control.

Now that I've seen most of his movies over my lifetime and marvelled at his unique talent, I like to watch the his films (especially the ones from the late 30s on when he became a bigger star) for the fun of seeing his uncanny scene-stealing ability. I'm sure his colleagues weren't too thrilled, but it's amazing to watch him - once you start noticing him doing it, you can't take your eyes off him (and that's the point, isn't it?) I wonder how much was consciously done in any scene, and how much was instinctive, just because he liked to be the center of attention wherever he went. Since in all the biographies of him that I have read it appears he was a very well-liked man, I guess his fellow actors were willing to concede defeat to a degree when they were in a scene with him.

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Postby Dewey1960 » January 3rd, 2008, 8:44 pm

Lorre certainly turned in one of his strongest and strangest performances in MAD LOVE. Personally, I can't think of a single other actor who could have carried off such a complex characterization. He had that rare ability to make even the sickest, most troubling characters not only believable, but compellingly sympathetic as well. Truly a genius.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYGKAD82kVM[/youtube]
Here he is in BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS. Could anyone else in Hollywood have pulled this off? Not likely.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhIU9W_S6Ds[/youtube]
www.deweystrailerpark.com

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Postby Mr. Arkadin » January 4th, 2008, 8:06 am

Great links Dewey. Perhaps Lorre could use his own thread here at SSO (or at least a Trailer Park dedication :wink: ).

jdb1

Postby jdb1 » January 4th, 2008, 9:54 am

What is the Lorre film I'm thinking of . . . I can't put my finger on the title . . . It's awful and sad at the same time -- he's a horribly scarred burn victim who loses his mind and goes looking for love (and revenge) in all the wrong places? Anyone?

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Postby Dewey1960 » January 4th, 2008, 10:07 am

Hi Judith. That's THE FACE BEHIND THE MASK (1941), a wonderfully evocative and chilling B picture directed by Robert Florey. TCM has run this film in the past and I have to assume they will again someday. It's pretty great.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QVtVlxQ-bc[/youtube]

jdb1

Postby jdb1 » January 4th, 2008, 10:11 am

Dewey1960 wrote:Hi Judith. That's THE FACE BEHIND THE MASK (1941), a wonderfully evocative and chilling B picture directed by Robert Florey. TCM has run this film in the past and I have to assume they will again someday. It's pretty great.


Thanks, Dewey, that's the one. Lorre was both scary and moving in that one.

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Postby Dawtrina » January 5th, 2008, 12:54 pm

In my humble opinion, Peter Lorre is one of the most underrated actors of the whole of the last century. I read his roles a little differently each time I see them, because I catch little nuances that I'd never caught before.

That works whether the roles be small ones in films like The Maltese Falcon or Casablanca, well known lead roles in Mad Love or M, or in underrated classics like Three Strangers, The Verdict or even The Comedy of Terrors.

Mad Love is also where I first really noticed Karl Freund, as powerful and underrated as Lorre. Reading up on his career, from The Cabinet of Dr Caligari to I Love Lucy makes me wonder why he isn't known better.

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Postby MikeBSG » January 9th, 2008, 10:53 am

I really like "Mad Love," and I think that it ranks second only to "Bride of Frankenstein" among the horror films of the Thirties.

While "Beast With Five Fingers" has its good moments (the death of Victor Francen and the scene in which Lorre nails the hand down) it has too many scenes that just don't belong in a horror film (as when Robert Alda scams the tourists at the start of the film) and the last scene is just dreadful. Warners seemed to have a weakness for concluding horror films with last scenes that just killed the mood of the whole film. ("Mystery of the Wax Museum" and "The Bad Seed" especially get my goat.)

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"Walking through the crowd..."

Postby benwhowell » January 9th, 2008, 2:53 pm

Lorre was a fascinating man and a master at "complex characterization-"as Dewey pointed out.
Thanks for pointing out "The Face Behind The Mask," Judith and Dewey.
It's one of my favorite performances and much too under-rated and under-appreciated.
Robert Florey began his career making "experimental" shorts and brought that "to the table" in his "studio" movies. It must have been a thrill for him to have Lorre "interpret" his vision in "The Face Behind The Mask."
Handsome Johnny Eck

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Postby MikeBSG » January 14th, 2008, 12:31 pm

Florey had an interesting career. He ended up working in TV, directing episodes such as "The Changing Heart" for "Alfred Hitchcock Presents;" "Perchance to Dream," with Richard Conte for "The Twilight Zone;" and Boris Karloff in "The Incredible Dr. Markesan" for "Thriller.

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Re: Mad Love (1935)/The Beast With Five Fingers (1948)

Postby Mr. Arkadin » September 2nd, 2012, 7:50 am

A bump for these two fine films showing tonight.

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Re: Mad Love (1935)/The Beast With Five Fingers (1948)

Postby Western Guy » September 2nd, 2012, 10:57 pm

"Mad Love" truly is one of the great horror films of the 30s, with some memorably creepy scenes and Lorre's descent into total madness. My only real complaint (besides the obnoxiousness of Healy's character) is Edward Brophy's Rollo. He's too likeable. It would have been much more effective if the character possessed a darker edge, and performed by a real sinister player, such as Jack LaRue (who I always picture in the role).

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Re: Mad Love (1935)/The Beast With Five Fingers (1948)

Postby MikeBSG » September 3rd, 2012, 8:13 pm

I have to agree that Brophy is too nice as Rollo. Maybe my problem with him comes from the movies he made later and I can't remove from my mind when I see "Mad Love."

I have the opposite problem with Vincent Price in "Laura." Whenever I watch "Laura," I convince myself that if Laura married Shelby, he would eventually bury her alive in the basement, so it's all for the best that she ended up with Mark (Dana Andrews.)

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Re: Mad Love (1935)/The Beast With Five Fingers (1948)

Postby CineMaven » September 3rd, 2012, 10:12 pm

As a good card-carrying classic film buff, I know it is de rigueur to have seen PETER LORRE in films and I have. But there are none so blind as those who cannot see. Uhhhh...that’d be me.

I didn’t want to see “THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS.” I confess, I confused it with “THE FIVE THOUSAND FINGERS OF DR. T.” Duh! But I liked TCM’s theme Sunday nite so I committed to watching it. Initially I wasn’t really feeling “...Five Fingers.” The leads weren’t compelling for me ( though very attractive ) and the movie seemed a bit like the-uninvited-hold-that-ghost-dark and-rainy-night-spookhouse tale. ( HEY ABBOTTTT!! ) When I saw the disembodied hand come out of the box like Thing...

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THING from “THE ADDAMS FAMILY”

...and reach for its ring, I was like “what the h......” things were looking up! But I also caught Peter Lorre from the corner of my eye.

From the corner of my eye? Yeah, I kind of ignore him in movies. Yeeeeup, I had my usual reaction to Peter “Over-The-Top-Scenery-Chewer” Lorre. You know, within 20 seconds flat of seeing him, the ewwww-creep out factor sets in; he’s the fall guy...the quivering coward you want beat over the head with Elisha Cook Jr. But some faint 30-watt light-bulb went on in ye olde noggin’. Watching him in “...Five Fingers” my focus suddenly turned entirely to him. I then found myself looking forward to seeing him a little later in “MAD LOVE.” I cannot speak to anything specific about what caught my eye in these two movies. I can only tell you I felt an involuntary overwhelming respect for this actor. It slowly dawned on me what I was seeing in these two films, and in fact, in all of the films I’ve seen him in:

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What I realized I was seeing, was Peter Lorre’s Commitment to Acting. Ha! I sound nutsy, right? ( SMILE when you say that... ) After all, COMMITMENT is an intangible, unconcrete thing. But I felt it. Let me quote part of King Rat's August 31st post from the "SUMMER UNDER THE STARS: AUGUST 2012 SCHEDULE" thread:

Maven, to me one hallmark of good acting and good directing is that the actor plays the role from the character's point of view instead of the actor playing a judgment on the character.

This little guy, with the bugged out eyes, and “funny” accent who looks cherubic at times, and demented at others, certainly fits Brother Rat's definition. No judgment on Peter's part. He commits to what his character is going through. In “...Five Fingers” when he was bugging out because of the hand...the hand, you knew he was cracked, the instant you saw him ( ...No big surprise, and I daresay he could have played Ingrid Bergman’s role in “GASLIGHT.” ) He seemed 'spent' with dementia. In “Mad Love” as he sits in the balcony, when the camera dollying slowly into him as Frances Drake is tortured onstage, you know he's a goner...a man in love ( ? ) He just wouldn’t...couldn’t take “NO” for an answer from the raven-haired Drake. Ha...her being married and in love with her husband would not stop Lorre from "loving" obsessing over her. Lorre plays a doctor, who, had he stayed on the sane and Hippocratic path, could make great contributions to medicine; help a lot of people. ( I loved seeing Keye Luke as the doctor's assistant. ) But Lorre plays a man gone mad knowing he could never HAVE that love reciprocated. I watched Lorre commit whole hog to this role; relish the torment. Tell me he didn’t enjoy having Dr. Gogol dress up in a macabre get-up...

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...worthy of Hannibal Lecter, Pin Head or any of today’s horror fiends.

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While this discovery was dawning on me, I kind of felt a tad bit like a peeping Tom witnessing the abandon Lorre commits to both ( albeit showy ) roles. Coming up those stairs with that crazy neck brace, laughing maniacally, on a set full of cast and crew and props ( and cockatoo ) he plays with such controlled abandon, he seems lost in his characters’ reverie of orgasmic self-torture. Lorre simultaneously fills me with revulsion and sympathy and I can’t say that about many other actors...any other actor. I wound up enjoying both these movies because of Peter Lorre. I shall have to pay more attention to Mr. Lorre, that is, if I want to keep my card-carrying membership.

P.S.

WESTERN GUY wrote:...My only real complaint (besides the obnoxiousness of Healy's character) is Edward Brophy's Rollo. He's too likeable. It would have been much more effective if the character possessed a darker edge, and performed by a real sinister player, such as Jack LaRue (who I always picture in the role).


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Great casting. I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing for Jack LaRue's hands... :oops:
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