All Love is Mad

madlove0

When I first saw Karl Freund’s MAD LOVE (1935) 20 odd years ago I was somewhat disappointed by it. I had spent decades looking at still photos from the movie in various books I came across and I had anticipated seeing a very different film than the one that eventually greeted me. Chilling photos of a grinning Peter Lorre wearing a macabre costume that consisted of a floppy hat, dark glasses, metal gloves and a bizarre neck brace haunted my nightmares. My imagination had literally run itself ragged trying to reenact particular scenes that I’d only read about in books and in my head MAD LOVE had taken on mythic proportions. I was sure that it was going to be one of the most frightening films I’d ever seen but when I finally caught up with the movie I was surprised by its odd tenderness. Instead of being terrified by Peter Lorre I was sympathetic to his plight. MAD LOVE is an eerie film with some spine-chilling moments but it’s also a tragic and twisted love story. Once I set aside my expectations and viewed the film a few more times on its own terms I began to deeply appreciate its ghoulish charm and now I often refer to it as one of my favorite films. There’s a lesson to be learned here for would be romantics. You can’t anticipate love. True love is unruly and unexpected. You can attempt to bend it to your will and contain it but love plays by its own set of rules. MAD LOVE understands the wild and unpredictable nature of love, which makes it perfect viewing for Valentine’s Day.

lorresmallMAD LOVE tells the macabre and melancholy story of Doctor Gogol, a brilliant surgeon with a big misshapen heart who spends his days caring for sick children and his evenings at Les Theatre des Horreurs, where a theater group puts on Grand Guignol-style shows. Gogol is obsessed with one of the actors, the stunningly beautiful Yvonne (Frances Drake), who plays a Joan of Arc type heroine. Her dramatics thrill and enchant him. And the inquisitive doctor seems to find her scenes of tortured religious-like ecstasy both fascinating and strangely erotic. Night after night Gogol sits in the shadows of his theater box admiring Yvonne from a safe distance until the curtains fall on the final show and he decides to visit his object of affection backstage to tell her how much he’s enjoyed her performances. Sadly for Gogol, he is met with cold detachment. Yvonne is obviously turned off by his appearance and thick accent. She also finds his hesitant manner and unflinching saucer eyes unappealing and invasive. Yvonne callously tells Gogol that she’s leaving the stage for good and settling into a life of quiet domesticity with her new husband, a talented pianist named Stephen Orlac (Colin Clive). Gogol says very little but we instantly know that he’s utterly heartbroken. Yvonne clearly has no interest in him and even worse; she seems to have no real affiliation with the stage show that has mesmerized Gogol for weeks.

The doctor leaves the theater in a morose state but takes a life-sized wax statue of Yvonne home with him as compensation. Gogol is a man of many talents, and like Stephen Orlac, he’s also a capable pianist. He entertains himself by buying the wax figure expensive gowns and playing the organ for it. If this all sounds a little mad, it is. But love is mad and we all express it in a myriad of ways. Unfortunately for Gogol, the real Yvonne pushes her way back into his life again after her husband is badly injured in a train accident that destroys his hands. At Yvonne’s request, Gogol performs an experimental surgery on Stephen Orlac and replaces his destroyed limbs with the hands of a knife-throwing killer who was executed for his crimes. The operation doesn’t yield the expected results and Yvonne’s husband is unable to play the piano and begins to suffer fits of rage accompanied by the urge to throw knives. His inability to work leaves the couple in financial ruin and they once again turn to Doctor Gogol for help. Gogol attempts to offer Stephen some sound medical advice and he eventually confesses his mad love to Yvonne but is harshly rebutted. She has simply used Gogol for her own gain without any regard for his feelings and desires. Her callous dismissal  and utter lack of compassion drives Gogol completely insane. He is a man of science and the unwieldy world of romance is beyond his control.

“I, a poor peasant, have conquered science! Why can’t I conquer love?” – Doctor Gogol (Peter Lorre)

madl2

Poor, poor Doctor Gogol. Unlike Yvonne, I find Peter Lorre oddly appealing. He’s not conventionally handsome but that’s part of his charm. I get lost in his eyes whenever the camera sweeps in for a close-up and I find his full lips utterly kissable. He looks smart with a shaved head and his wardrobe in MAD LOVE, which consists of various hats and elaborate coats with fur collars, suits his small stature. While some might find his voice off-putting, I happen to find it utterly enchanting. I could listen to him recite poetry for days and in MAD LOVE he breaks into verse on numerous occasions. He might be a little morbid but so am I. Like Gogol, I enjoy a good horror show and although I’ve never attended an execution for kicks, I understand his fascination with death. I like to spend time in old cemeteries. Gogol also plays the organ and I’ve been known to tickle the ivories myself. I simply can’t understand why Yvonne finds the boring Stephen Orloc more interesting than Doctor Gogol. But who am I to judge? Love plays by its own set of rules.

Doctor Gogol doesn’t survive his encounter with love but Yvonne does. At the end of the film she’s left with a knife wielding, penniless and self-absorbed musician for a husband. She’s abandoned her once successful acting career to become his wife but will undoubtedly end up being his nursemaid instead. I don’t envy her but as the film title suggests, all love is mad. Doctor Gogol might be the designated bad guy in MAD LOVE but the real monster is love itself, which will probably end up destroying every character in the movie. Buy your heart’s desire a box of chocolate and some cheap champagne and curl up with MAD LOVE this Valentine’s Day. This tragic tale of  misplaced passions and unrequited love isn’t the most conventional viewing option but it’s the kind of romantic fairy-tale that I can appreciate and you’re guaranteed a memorable viewing experience.

25 Responses All Love is Mad
Posted By Angelabsurdist : February 14, 2013 4:35 pm

I haven’t seen this movie. “Ghoulish charm” appeals to me. I am going to see it now because of your excellent post. Thank you.

Posted By Angelabsurdist : February 14, 2013 4:35 pm

I haven’t seen this movie. “Ghoulish charm” appeals to me. I am going to see it now because of your excellent post. Thank you.

Posted By Emgee : February 14, 2013 4:40 pm

Silly girl, to opt for an artist instead of a succesful surgeon! Bad long-term planning.
This movie almost singlehandedly led to the British ban on horror movies until the early Forties.

Highly recommended to all dark Romantics and ditched suitors out there. Take heart; you’re not the only one.

Posted By Emgee : February 14, 2013 4:40 pm

Silly girl, to opt for an artist instead of a succesful surgeon! Bad long-term planning.
This movie almost singlehandedly led to the British ban on horror movies until the early Forties.

Highly recommended to all dark Romantics and ditched suitors out there. Take heart; you’re not the only one.

Posted By swac44 : February 14, 2013 5:08 pm

Plus it’s the only collaboration between past and future cameraman Karl Freund (in his last directorial outing) and future Citizen Kane cinematographer Gregg Toland, what’s not to love?

Posted By swac44 : February 14, 2013 5:08 pm

Plus it’s the only collaboration between past and future cameraman Karl Freund (in his last directorial outing) and future Citizen Kane cinematographer Gregg Toland, what’s not to love?

Posted By epclassicmovienight : February 14, 2013 9:21 pm

Reblogged this on classicmovienight.

Posted By epclassicmovienight : February 14, 2013 9:21 pm

Reblogged this on classicmovienight.

Posted By Gene : February 14, 2013 9:56 pm

I first encountered this film, as a child, in a book called Fantastic Cinema. I fell in love with such greats as Freaks, Cocteau’s La Belle et La Bete, Melies’ Voyage to the Moon, and Mad Love long before I ever got to see any of them. Mad Love was the last of that list I finally viewed and I was mildly disappointed because of the expectations years of imagining had built up but what better film to discuss on Valentine’s Day? :) Peter Lorre was one of a kind and incredibly well cast here. It is almost an expressionist film. Beautifully shot and madly realized, it is one of my favorite films.

Posted By Gene : February 14, 2013 9:56 pm

I first encountered this film, as a child, in a book called Fantastic Cinema. I fell in love with such greats as Freaks, Cocteau’s La Belle et La Bete, Melies’ Voyage to the Moon, and Mad Love long before I ever got to see any of them. Mad Love was the last of that list I finally viewed and I was mildly disappointed because of the expectations years of imagining had built up but what better film to discuss on Valentine’s Day? :) Peter Lorre was one of a kind and incredibly well cast here. It is almost an expressionist film. Beautifully shot and madly realized, it is one of my favorite films.

Posted By Martha C. : February 14, 2013 11:04 pm

Thanks Kimberly for another informative, engrossing, and entertaining post. Makes me see Peter Lorre in a whole new light..as a romantic figure. I’ll absolutely look for this film..uh oh, I feel myself becoming obsessed. :)

Posted By Martha C. : February 14, 2013 11:04 pm

Thanks Kimberly for another informative, engrossing, and entertaining post. Makes me see Peter Lorre in a whole new light..as a romantic figure. I’ll absolutely look for this film..uh oh, I feel myself becoming obsessed. :)

Posted By changeling69 : February 15, 2013 10:51 am

I never knew Lorre was a skinhead as a young man…..he must’ve been way ahead of his time by today’s standards:):):):):)!!!!

Posted By changeling69 : February 15, 2013 10:51 am

I never knew Lorre was a skinhead as a young man…..he must’ve been way ahead of his time by today’s standards:):):):):)!!!!

Posted By Doug : February 15, 2013 1:41 pm

I wonder if Lorre’s performance in Mad Love influenced Chas Addams to add a Dr.Gogol-type to his Addams Family. We know him as “Uncle Fester”-though unnamed in the original cartoons. He would certainly fit in.

Posted By Doug : February 15, 2013 1:41 pm

I wonder if Lorre’s performance in Mad Love influenced Chas Addams to add a Dr.Gogol-type to his Addams Family. We know him as “Uncle Fester”-though unnamed in the original cartoons. He would certainly fit in.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : February 15, 2013 3:31 pm

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments! I hope you all had a great Valentine’s Day alone or with a partner.

And for anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to see it yet, you’re in for a real treat! MAD LOVE is very special film and Peter Lorre is absolutely terrific in it. Charlie Chaplin supposedly called Lorre “the greatest living actor” after seeing MAD LOVE.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : February 15, 2013 3:31 pm

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments! I hope you all had a great Valentine’s Day alone or with a partner.

And for anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to see it yet, you’re in for a real treat! MAD LOVE is very special film and Peter Lorre is absolutely terrific in it. Charlie Chaplin supposedly called Lorre “the greatest living actor” after seeing MAD LOVE.

Posted By Richard B : February 16, 2013 4:20 am

Chaplin was right. I saw Lorre do some jaw-dropping things in THE MASK OF DEMETRIOS and MYSTERIOUS MR. MOTO that started me seriously re-evaluating his primacy among actors.

Posted By Richard B : February 16, 2013 4:20 am

Chaplin was right. I saw Lorre do some jaw-dropping things in THE MASK OF DEMETRIOS and MYSTERIOUS MR. MOTO that started me seriously re-evaluating his primacy among actors.

Posted By robbushblog : February 17, 2013 1:41 pm

PSA: Please do not confuse this movie with the Drew Barrymore atrocity also called Mad Love. If you seek out this movie, please make sure you get the right one.

Posted By robbushblog : February 17, 2013 1:41 pm

PSA: Please do not confuse this movie with the Drew Barrymore atrocity also called Mad Love. If you seek out this movie, please make sure you get the right one.

Posted By DevlinCarnate : February 17, 2013 8:02 pm

for anyone interested,this is available on the Legends of Horror six film set,along with Karloff’s Mask of Fu Manchu,and Bogart’s Return of Dr X,his only horror movie,reportedly because he complained about his movie roles,and Jack Warner’s revenge

Posted By DevlinCarnate : February 17, 2013 8:02 pm

for anyone interested,this is available on the Legends of Horror six film set,along with Karloff’s Mask of Fu Manchu,and Bogart’s Return of Dr X,his only horror movie,reportedly because he complained about his movie roles,and Jack Warner’s revenge

Posted By moviemorlocks.com – Mummy Dearest : October 23, 2014 9:12 pm

[…] EST. This exceptional late Hammer film is followed by a string of great horror classics including MAD LOVE (1935), which I wrote about last year and THE HAUNTING (1963), which was the focus of my tribute to […]

Leave a Reply

Current ye@r *

MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
See more: facebook.com/tcmtv
See more: twitter.com/tcm
3-D  Action Films  Actors  Actors' Endorsements  Actresses  animal stars  Animation  Anime  Anthology Films  Art Direction  Art in Movies  Australian CInema  Autobiography  Avant-Garde  Aviation  Awards  B-movies  Beer in Film  Behind the Scenes  Best of the Year lists  Biography  Biopics  Black Film  Blu-Ray  Books on Film  Boxing films  British Cinema  Canadian Cinema  Character Actors  Chicago Film History  Cinematography  Classic Films  College Life on Film  Comedy  Comic Book Movies  Crime  Czech Film  Dance on Film  Digital Cinema  Directors  Disaster Films  Documentary  Drama  DVD  Early Talkies  Editing  Educational Films  European Influence on American Cinema  Experimental  Exploitation  Fairy Tales on Film  Faith or Christian-based Films  Family Films  Film Composers  Film Criticism  film festivals  Film History in Florida  Film Noir  Film Scholars  Film titles  Filmmaking Techniques  Films About Gambling  Films of the 1960s  Films of the 1980s  Food in Film  Foreign Film  French Film  Gangster films  Genre  Genre spoofs  HD & Blu-Ray  Holiday Movies  Hollywood history  Hollywood lifestyles  Horror  Horror Movies  Icons  independent film  Italian Film  Japanese Film  Korean Film  Literary Adaptations  Martial Arts  Melodramas  Method Acting  Mexican Cinema  Moguls  Monster Movies  Movie Books  Movie Costumes  movie flops  Movie locations  Movie lovers  Movie Reviewers  Movie settings  Movie Stars  Movie titles  Movies about movies  Music in Film  Musicals  Outdoor Cinema  Paranoid Thrillers  Parenting on film  Pirate movies  Polish film industry  political thrillers  Politics in Film  Pornography  Pre-Code  Producers  Race in American Film  Remakes  Revenge  Road Movies  Romance  Romantic Comedies  Satire  Scandals  Science Fiction  Screenwriters  Semi-documentaries  Serials  Short Films  Silent Film  silent films  Social Problem Film  Sports  Sports on Film  Stereotypes  Straight-to-DVD  Studio Politics  Stunts and stuntmen  Suspense thriller  Swashbucklers  TCM Classic Film Festival  TCM Underground  Television  The British in Hollywood  The Germans in Hollywood  The Hungarians in Hollywood  The Irish in Hollywood  Theaters  Thriller  Trains in movies  Underground Cinema  VOD  War film  Westerns  Women in the Film Industry  Women's Weepies