- A notable work for both Peter Lorre and director Karl Freund—two Austrian/Hungarian talents with roots in German expressionism (Lorre was discovered by Lang and starred in M of course) and Freund worked with Lang (he was his DP) on Metropolis. Both were in Hollywood now- this is Lorre’s first film in English—and this is sadly Freund’s last as director (he did The Mummy in 1932). He’d go on to be a cinematographer for decades longer (doing work like Key Largo).
This film is also semi-famous for Chaplin declaring Lorre the “greatest living actor” after seeing it. Lorre is utterly captivating here. “I, a poor peasant, have conquered science. Why can’t I conquer love?!?!” He plays the bald, lovestruck Doctor Gogol.
- There are gifted people all over the place here in the cast and crew. Gregg Toland (DP for Citizen Kane and works with Wyler) was part of the crew, Dimitri Tiomkin (High Noon, Rio Bravo) wrote the score, and poor alcoholic Colin Clive (Frankenstein) is here in one of his last roles.
- A tight 68 minutes
Freund gets to show off his expressionistic pedigree with the gothic play, masks, torches and shadows…. I love the triangular ceilings in the operating room
- Heavy close-ups accentuating Lorre’s strangeness
- A great shot- silhouette of the maid answering the phone. She is nuts, she’s muttering most of the movie with a bird on her shoulder
Lorre has such an ability to play eerie characters
- The story is intriguing- but also ridiculous (there’s certainly plenty of winking intended)—they just launch coincidences at you like the pianist is fine after his accident except for the use of his hands, and the criminal who was an expert at killing with his hands crosses paths with a mad surgeon
- Recommend but not in the top 10 of 1935