Transplant Terror: From Mad Love to Mansion of the Doomed
Kat and Samm return for episode 12 of Daughters of Darkness, where they discuss mad science in general and transplant-themed horror in particular. They begin with an analysis of the origins of mad science fiction in Gothic literature — partly a reaction to the European Enlightenment — through the fiction and nonfiction work of writers like Coleridge and Goethe, culminating in Mary Shelley’s seminal Frankenstein. The episode moves on to explore adaptations of Maurice Renard’s novel, Les Mains d’Orlac (1920), in which a pianist’s hands are damaged in an accident and replaced in an experimental procedure; but he’s convinced that his new hands belonged to a murderer and are possessing him to commit horrible acts.
Beginning with Robert Wiene’s forerunner German expressionist film Orlacs Hände (1924), with Conrad Veidt, Renard’s loose plot thread moves through Maurice Tourneur’s similarly-themed, neglected La main du diable (1943) — a surreal, blackly comic work made during the Nazi occupation of France — to Karl Freund’s Mad Love (1935). Starring Peter Lorre as a crazed surgeon, the focus of this film is not on Orlac, the piano player, but on the demented Dr. Gogol, who is obsessed with Orlac’s wife, an actress in the Grand Guignol. Also discussed is Georges Franju’s groundbreaking Les yeux sans visage (1960), about a surgeon attempting to replace his daughter’s ruined face through nefarious means, and offshoots like Jess Franco’s Gritos en la noche aka The Awful Dr. Orloff (1962), as well as one of Michael Pataki’s few directorial efforts, Mansion of the Doomed (1976). The majestic Richard Basehart stars as a well-meaning but misguided doctor trying desperately to replace his daughter’s eyes.