“Yet what a complicated endless tale it seemed to tell, of tyranny and sanctuary, that poster looming above him now, showing the murderer Orlac! An artist with a murderer’s hands; that was the ticket, the hieroglyphic of the times.” – Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano
Outer Space, Peter Tscherkassky, 1999, 16mm, 10 mins
Mad Love aka The Hands of Orlac, 1935, 16mm, 68 mins
Karl Freund is best remembered today as an influential cinematographer, having shot films such as The Last Laugh, Metropolis, and Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, eventually bringing an Expressionist touch to Hollywood through his work on Dracula and Key Largo, among many other pictures.
But he also helmed a handful of titles, both in Europe and the US. His final directorial effort—and arguably his most important—was the tenebrous MGM chiller Mad Love, a remake of Robert Weine’s The Hands of Orlac. The film paces quickly around a doomed love triangle consisting of Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake), former star of a Grand Guignol theater of horrors, her husband, renowned pianist Steven Orlac (Colin Clive, fresh from his now-legendary role as Dr. Frankenstein for Universal), and the brilliant surgeon Dr. Gogol (Peter Lorre), driven to insanity by his obsessive desire for Yvonne. After Stephen’s hands are crushed in a railway accident, Gogol uses his skills to replace them, grafting those of a sideshow knife-thrower, recently executed for murder, onto the useless stumps. Though his new limbs indeed prove dexterous, Orlac discovers that they hold a dark will of their own.
Mad Love is paired with Peter Tscherkassky’s masterful Outer Space. Here, too, as in Freund’s film, are uncanny dopplegangers and ominous shadows, those unsettling hallmarks of German Expressionism. By way of elaborate optical printing, Tscherkassky warps images of Barbara Hershey from the 1981 supernatural horror picture The Entity into a wide-screen storm of gasps, flashes, and crackles, as if the emulsion itself had been cursed by some convulsive transformation.
7pm at Light Industry
155 Freeman Street, Greenpoint
Tickets – $7, available at door. Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.