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Les Mains d'Orlac/The Hands of Orlac (1920) - Maurice Renard

This page is about Maurice Renard's novel Les Mains d'Orlac/The Hands of Orlac (1920) and the films it spawned. Its place in the timeline is film/1924, the year Robert Wiene first made the novel into a film.

Related: hand - body horror

Orlacs Hände (1924) - Robert Wiene

Les Mains d'Orlac/The Hands of Orlac (1920) - Maurice Renard

Les Mains d’Orlac was a French serial first published in 58 episodes from May 15 to July 12, 1920 in the French magazine in L’Intransigeant. In that same year it was published as a novel (Paris: Nilsson, 1920). --http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/64/evans.htm [Dec 2005]

In 1920 Renard published what would prove to be his most popular and most translated novel: Les Mains d’Orlac (The Hands of Orlac, 1929). Easily recognizable to most readers and movie-goers of the sf/horror genre, it is the tale of a celebrated pianist who loses his hands in a train wreck, has them surgically replaced with those of an executed murderer, and later begins to assume the personality of his appendages’ psychopathic donor. The book was made into a movie on several occasions: the two most famous being the one in 1926 by Robert Wiene (creator of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) with Conradt Veidt as Orlac, and the one in 1935 by Karl Freund with Peter Lorre in the title role (inexplicably titled Mad Love). And Hollywood’s apparent fascination with this theme has continued over the years in low-budget thrillers based—albeit often very loosely—on Renard’s original premise: e.g., The Beast with Five Fingers (1946, also with Peter Lorre), The Hands of a Stranger (1963), and even the more recent Body Parts (1991, with Jeff Fahey).

One interesting side-note to Renard’s Les Mains d’Orlac is the fact that the surgeon portrayed in the novel, a certain Dr. Cerral, was patterned on a real French surgeon of great renown during the early 1900s. His name was Dr. Alexis Carrel (1873-1944) and his experiments with biological transplants and grafting procedures earned him the Nobel Prize in 1912. Both Le Docteur Lerne and Les Mains d’Orlac thus closely reflect Renard’s awareness of and interest in the scientific advances of his time—especially in the areas of biology, psychology, and physics—which he then directly transposed into much of his sf fiction. Renard seems to have been particularly obsessed by altered modes of human perception: how certain physiological modifications to the human body would allow one to more fully experience the "beyond." And his next novel, L’Homme truqué (The Altered Man), is yet another case in point.--http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/64/evans.htm [Dec 2005]

Orlacs Hände (1924) - Robert Wiene

I saw this in LS Video's reconstruction. Some of the titles seem a little dubious, and the early scenes are fragmentary, but the gist of the movie is there, I think, and to me it seems fairly absurd. (So is the remake, but it's aware of the absurdity and pushes it to its grotesque limit.) Of course the idea is absurd, but a film like, say, "The Unknown," which starts from a similar idea, makes it seem disturbingly plausible by dramatizing it in terms of obsessive psychology, with appropriately seamy surroundings. But the torments of the character in this film (and in other versions of the story) seem unfounded in any real feeling of loss, alienation, or self-disgust, and the one truly scary section of the story, which involves the possibly resurrected donor, is a nonsensical distraction. Veidt is worth seeing but he gets little help from the other actors. This one would be worth redoing right some time. --GPeoples-2 for imdb.com http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0015202 [Oct 2004]

Mad Love (1935) - Karl Freund

Mad Love (1935) - Karl Freund

In Paris, the great surgeon Dr. Gogol falls madly in love with stage actress Yvonne Orlac, and his ardor disturbs her quite a bit when he discovers to his horror that she is married to concert pianist Stephen Orlac. Shortly thereafter, Stephen's hands are badly crushed in a train accident- beyond the power of standard medicine. Knowing that his hands are his life, Yvonne overcomes her fear and goes to Dr. Gogol, to beg him to help. Gogol decides to surgically graft the hands of executed murderer Rollo onto Stephen Orlac, the surgery is successful but has terrible side-effects... --Summary written by Ken Yousten http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0026663 [Oct 2004]

In Paris, Dr. Gogol is infatuated with theater actress Yvonne Orlac as he returns to his same box seat for her every performance. Yvonne is married, however, to concert pianist Stephen Orlac. They plan to move to England. When Stephen's talented hands are crushed in a train wreck, Yvonne asks for Dr. Gogol's help by operating to save them. Although the doctor can't save Stephen's hands, he will do anything to help Yvonne. His solution is to replace the hands with those of an executed knife-throwing murderer. Gogol's obsession with Yvonne grows while Stephen discovers that his proficiency at the piano has been replaced by an uncanny accuracy with throwing things. The doctor's next move is to play on Stephen's mental distress to convince him that he is crazy, and a murderer. It is the only way he can get Yvonne. Summary written by Gary Jackson http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0026663 [Oct 2004]

Mad Love is a 1935 horror film starring Peter Lorre, Frances Drake and Colin Clive. When the film was released, some countries banned the film while others cut out the violent scenes. The film is an adaption of Maurice Renard’s novel Les Mains d'Orlac (1920). This classic horror movie was Lorre's first American movie role.

A concert pianist loses his hands after a horrible train wreck. The hands of a killer, and expert knife thrower, are sewn on. Unfortunately, now the man has murderous thoughts and the hand skills of the man who owned them before him. Meanwhile, the brilliant doctor, Doctor Gogol, is in love with the man's wife and will do anything to have her. Lorre plays the bald insane doctor. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_Love_%281935_film%29 [Dec 2005]

Les Mains d'Orlac/The Hands of Orlac (1961) - Edmond T. Gréville

A pianist has a transplant operation that gives him a new pair of hands. Unfortunately, the hands belonged to a murderer, and he finds the hands starting to take over his life and commit crimes. A seedy magician suspects what is happening and tries to blackmail him. --Summary written for imdb.com http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054963 [Oct 2004]

Rich and famous concert pianist Stephen Orlac flies to France to marry beautiful Louise Cochrane. In heavy fog, the small aircraft crashes. Next day newspapers run two headlines next to each other: the ruin of his hands, as well as the execution of the strangler Louis Vasseur. During recovery of his surgery, in Orlac's mind his hands aren't his own any longer, they are Vasseur's. A magician and conman, Nero, with his sexy Vietnamese assistant, try to blackmail Orlac and to that purpose devise plots that further push the pianist off his mind. --Summary written by Artemis-9 for imdb.com http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054963 [Oct 2004]

List of films about independent body parts

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_films_about_independent_body_parts [Sept 2004]

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