The Hands of Orlac (1961)

Article #219 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 10-21-2001
Posting date: 3-6-2002

When a pianist’s hands are crushed in an accident, a brilliant surgeon grafts the hands of an executed killer in their place. The pianist then discovers he has trouble playing the piano and is tortured by thoughts of murder.

This is the third version of this story of which I am aware. It’s not my favorite; as Orlac, Mel Ferrer is just not very interesting, and the script is so clumsy and obvious in continually bringing up the murderer’s name to him that it feels pretty contrived. The movie itself seems more interested in Nero the magician (played by Christopher Lee), but I find myself wondering what Nero is trying to gain from terrorizing Orlac; it doesn’t appear to be money or revenge, as in the earlier two versions. As it is, he appears to be doing it out of sheer meanness. Even the climax of the movie has little to do with Orlac, being more concerned with Nero and his assistant. Perhaps they should have gone all out and just made a movie about Nero. The cast also features Donald Wolfit and Donald Pleasence in small roles.


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