"Mr [Peter] Lorre, with every physical handicap, can convince you of the goodness, the starved tenderness, of his vice-entangled souls. Those marbly pupils in the pasty spherical face are like the eye-pieces of a microscope, through which you can see laid flat on the slide the entangled mind of a man: love and lust, nobility and perversity, hatred of itself and despair, jumping out of the jelly." That's how novelist Graham Greene put it; Charlie Chaplin made it easier: "Lorre is the best actor alive." This was in 1935, and Lorre had just made his first American film. Karl Freund's Mad Love, less than 70 minute long, is now out on the recently released six-film Hollywood Legends of Horrorpack; some other Halloween goodies bundled in include Tod Browning's Mark of the Vampire, and the quite unsettling Devil Doll, starring Lionel Barrymore.
Mad Love is the prize in the collection. It's a bewildering story, beginning at Paris's "Le Theatre du Horreurs": Obviously Le Theatre du Grand Guignol of Montmarte. (Since the namesake Guignol is a puppet, Jigsaw's merry adventures in Saw III are all the more in this Parisian theater's tradition of staging torture, mutilation and grisly death.) The genius surgeon Gogol (Lorre) is also the worst kind of fanboy, lurking at every show. With his huge bald head, framed with a rich fur collar, he looks like a lecherous wingless vulture. Roosting with the rest of the gorehounds at Le Theatre, he waits for the performance of the woman he loves.