Were it not for Conrad Veidt’s masterly characterization, The Hands of Orlac [from the novel by Maurice Renard] would be an absurd fantasy in the old-time mystery-thriller class. As the musician who learns that the hands he lost in a train wreck have been supplanted by those from a man guillotined for a murder, Veidt keeps his audience highly tensed in spots.
Drab photography and over-footage devoted to long gloomy hallways make for repetition. Poorly titled, the picture is hopelessly complicated until the latter half of the last reel. Not until then is it discovered that a character assumed to be an apparition of the murderer has framed the man who was executed and has perpetrated the second killing, which he endeavored to place on the musician with the dead man’s hands.
The salvaging of a train wreck by torchlight is one of the production’s most vivid sequences.