Not to be confused with the 1995 film of the same name. Yvonne (Frances Drake) is a Grand Guignol-type actress; her adoring husband Stephen (Colin Clive) is a famous pianist. She is also admired by loony Dr. Gogol (Peter Lorre), a surgeon famous for performing difficult transplants, who is desperate to have her to himself. She finds herself needing his help when Stephen is in a train accident that crushes his hands. Gogol performs a hand transplant, but unfortunately the new hands came from recently executed murderer Rollo (Edward Brophy). Soon Stephen finds that he can’t play piano anymore, but he can inadvertently throw knives whenever he gets angry. Gogol, still planning to capture Yvonne, comes up with a plan to frame Stephen for murder.
I like Mad Love more than I tend to like other classic movies. I adore Peter Lorre and Colin Clive. It’s also not too melodramatic (it gets there at times, but that’s the ’30s). The characters are all pretty likable. Actually, there’s even an Asian guy (Keye Luke, Mr. Wing from Gremlins) whose character is surprisingly racially sensitive—he’s Dr. Wong, one of Gogol’s colleagues.
And Yvonne is hot! She’s sassy for a ‘30s heroine too. Gogol is at times a sympathetic character. He is shown treating a young girl, and when her family tries to scrape up money to pay him, he says, “I do not operate for money.” He also could have killed Stephen rather than fix his hands (though he was probably scheming all the while).
I have few gripes about the movie. I don’t like Gogol’s crazy eyebrows or his drunken housekeeper; she’s meant to give comic relief, but is decidedly unfunny. I also wonder why everyone in France is English. Overall, the film is nostalgic for me (I first watched it with my sister Leslie as teenagers–we particularly enjoyed Stephen’s habit of losing his pen, finding it, and saying, “That’s my pen, you know”–ya had to be there), but I still like it on its own merit. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for screams and giggles.