The Hands of Orlac – aka Les Mains d’Orlac – is a 1960 French/British horror feature film directed by Edmond T. Gréville from a screenplay co-written with Donald Taylor and John V. Baines, based on Maurice Renard’s novel.
In the US, the film was reissued as Hands of the Strangler.
Renard’s novel had been adapted previously for cinema. There is a 1924 Austrian version directed by Robert Weine and starring Conrad Veidt, and, Mad Love, the 1935 American version, directed by Karl Freund and starring Peter Lorre. Both are better regarded than this interpretation.
The movie stars Mel Ferrer (Nightmare City; Blood and Roses), Christopher Lee, Dany Carrel (Mill of the Stone Women), Lucile Saint-Simon, Felix Aylmer, Donald Wolfit (Blood of the Vampire), Donald Pleasence. David Peel, who plays the airline pilot, starred in The Brides of Dracula the same year.
Lauded concert pianist Stephen Orlac insists on flying from London back to Paris to marry beautiful Louise Cochrane. However, the small aircraft he has hired crashes in fog. Next day, newspapers run two headlines next to each other: the ruin of his hands, as well as the execution of the strangler Louis Vasseur. Orlac’s mind begins to crack.
Henceforth, Nero, a magician and conman, attempts to blackmail Orlac and drive him insane…
“Despite the datedness of the filmmakers’ approach, there are some moments when The Hands of Orlac is inadvertently modern almost despite itself, such as the frequent use of mirror-based compositions and the strangler’s fetishistic gloves, both of which seem to foreshadow 1970s gialli. One place where the filmmakers make a more conscious effort to be contemporary is in their choice of a jazz-based score.” Keith Brown, Cinefantastique
” … the highly professional finish Greville brings to the proceedings, and the fact that it works on technical and artistic levels, prevents it from being called a bad film, and therefore, it certainly wouldn’t qualify on a ‘worst of British’ list … but its mediocrity, and inability to make usage of all the ‘right ingredients’, is in some ways worse.” Drewe Shimon, BritMovie.co.uk
“Slightly dull remake of 1924 classic, Hands of Orlac has great cast but fails on most levels. Watch other remake Mad Love (1935) instead.” The Spooky Isles
“The whole idea is more than a little silly and never rings true in a psychological sense, either … Claude Bolling’s jazzy score is more enjoyable.” Mike Mayo, The Horror Show Guide
Cast and characters:
- Mel Ferrer … Stephen Orlac
- Christopher Lee … Nero the magician
- Dany Carrel … Régina / Li-Lang
- Lucile Saint-Simon … Louise Cochrane Orlac
- Felix Aylmer … Dr. Francis Cochrane
- Peter Reynolds … Mr. Felix
- Basil Sydney … Maurice Seidelman
- Campbell Singer … Inspector Henderson
- Donald Wolfit … Professor Volchett
- Donald Pleasence … Graham Coates
- Peter Bennett … 1st Member
- George Merritt … 2nd Member
- Arnold Diamond … Dresser
- Janina Faye … Child
- Gertan Klauber … Fairground attendant
- Mireille Perrey … Madame Aliberti
- David Peel … Airplane’s pilot
- Walter Randall … Waiter
- Anita Sharp-Bolster … Volchett’s Assistant
- Manning Wilson … Inspector Jagger
- Yanilou … Emilie
- Edouard Hemme … Auge
- Charles Lamb … Guard