This is not a new or original story for the screen, but it is ideal starring material for Peter Lorre, making his first appearance in a Hollywood-milled product. Ideal as this French-written novel [Hands of Orlac by Maurice Renard] may be for Lorre, however, the results are disappointing.
Settings are strikingly effective and the camerawork far above average, director Karl Freund being a former cameraman and one of the best. Lorre’s fine performance does the rest.
Hands of Orlac, under that title, was made in 1928 as a silent by Aywon, an independent company. Main character, in the hands of Lorre, is that of a surgeon-scientist with sadistic tendencies. Among other things, he never misses a guillotining.
Lorre buys a statue of an actress and idolizes it, refusing to recognize that she is in love with her husband, a distinguished pianist (Orlac). When the latter is injured in a train wreck and his hands have to be amputated, the doctor grafts on the mitts of a murderer who choked his victim and who has just been guillotined. Thus the pianist husband finally kills his stepfather.
The girl is Frances Drake, and the husband is played acceptably by Colin Clive.