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Mad Love (1935)

By Ian Grey | Posted

Years before he found fame chronicling the affairs of a Cuban bandleader and his ditzy wife in I Love Lucy, director Karl Freund brought us a snickering plastic surgeon named Dr. Gogol (Peter Lorre) and his object of stalking, an actress named Yvonne (Frances Drake) in the aptly titled Mad Love. One Paris night, the bad doctor goes to the Grand Guignol--a theater dedicated to vivid enactments of dismemberments, disembowelings, and the like--and becomes obsessed with Yvonne. Although appreciative of the doctor's patronage, she balks at further intimacy. (Lorre almost orgasms with delighted self-loathing: "You find me re-pul-sive?") When Yvonne's pianist husband (Colin Clive) gets his hands cut off in a train crash, Gogol tries to win her affection by sewing on a new pair, but alas! he uses the hands of criminal knife thrower, at which point things get really unusual. Even 60-plus years on, Mad Love has the ability to shock and amaze audiences. Lorre oozes sweaty Teutonic pathology, his bald head poking out of clunky suits like an obscene phallus in a woolen condom, while the film obsesses with surprising frankness on voyeurism, weird surgery, Freudian sexual no-nos, and all the other things that make love a many-splendored thing.

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