Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Hands of Orlac (1924)

The hands of famous pianist Peter Orlac (Conrad Veidt) are crushed in a train accident. Soon he learns that his transplanted hands are from an executed murderer. He becomes destitute because murderer hands cannot play piano.

This Austrian/German production, later remade as Mad Love (1935), was the first adaptation of the source novel. There is at least one more. While Mad Love concentrates on the mad doctor almost to the point of making him the protagonist, The Hands of Orlac focuses on Orlac and the mystery he finds himself in. The movie starts almost with the train accident and dispenses entirely with the creepy doctor's creepy obsession. Instead we see our hero progress quickly into poverty and madness.

Enough overacting and arm waving to make Harold Zoid proud, The Hands are a classic example of German expressionist filmmaking. Director Robert Wiene also directed The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, arguably the first modern horror film. Understanding the visual storytelling of this style of film and pantomime in general, The Hands is an enjoyable watch, assuming you get around the irritatingly atonal score. AMRU 3.5.

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