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The Hands of Orlac Movie Review

veidt fritz conrad wiene

When The Hands of Orlac was first shown in Vienna, grown women fainted and their male companions complained to the theatre manager. The manager asked Conrad Veidt if he would say something to the crowd to circumvent a riot. Reportedly, Veidt so moved the audience that, not only did he receive an ovation, but the movie went on to enjoy spectacular success (and with good reason). Is this silent movie better than 1935's Mad Love starring Peter Lorre and 1960's The Hands of Orlac with Mel Ferrer? Unquestionably! Veidt (1893–1943) was one of the most expressive actors of the silent screen. Moviegoers who know him only as Caligari's Cesare the somnambulist or as Jaffar in The Thief of Bagdad or as Casablanca's Major Strasser don't really know Conrad Veidt. As pianist Paul Orlac, he believes that his hands (crushed in an accident) have been replaced with those of a murderer. He believes the murderer to be the sinister-looking gent played by Fritz Kortner (1892–1970), and so do we. Orlac feels that he can no longer touch his wife (Alexandra Sorina) or play ever again. Actually, screenwriter Ludwig Nerz and director Robert Wiene (1881–1938) are playing fast AND clever with us, but as long as the illusion lasts, we are nearly as caught up in Orlac's torture as he is (and I'm not talking about a dream sequence here). In the best of all possible worlds, The Hands of Orlac would be released on video with the Clubfoot Orchestra's outstanding score, first performed at San Francisco's Castro Theatre in early 1997. (Based on the novel by Maurice Renard.) AKA: Orlacs Hände.

1925 92m/B AT Conrad Veidt, Fritz Kortner, Carmen Cartellieri, Paul Askonas, Alexandra Sorina, Fritz Strassny; D: Robert Wiene; W: Ludwig Nerz; C: Gunther Krampf, Hans Androschin. VHS

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