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Mad Love (Blu-ray Review)

Warner Archive Collection released a sweet lot of horror titles back in October. While late to the game on reviewing them, the review copies weren’t sent out til later on. In the current climate of home video physical media distributing, there have been many a fulfilment center delay on titles each and every month. So that’s not too surprising at the end of the day. Nonetheless, still very exciting with what they chose to put out last month. We travel back to 1935 for this review with Peter Lorre’s American film debut in Mad Love. This is its first time on Blu-ray with a 4K scan, lossless audio, a trailer and a commentary track. The disc was released back on October 19th, but its available to order now from the paid Amazon Associates link below.

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Film 

Grand Guignol theater actress Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake) is married to concert pianist Stephen (Colin Clive) and plans to take a break from acting to tour with him. However, Dr. Gogol (Peter Lorre), her biggest fan, won’t let her go so easily. When Stephen’s hands are destroyed in an accident, Dr. Gogol’s obsession with Yvonne leads him to replace Stephen’s hands with those of a knife-wielding murderer who was sentenced to death. Soon, Stephen’s new hands develop a mind of their own.

Mad Love is a quirky delight and I can’t think of a more perfect debut for Peter Lorre in America. While the film has a lot to offer, Lorre is the prime attraction. He delivers in creepiness, madness and despair with his Dr. Gogol. Its a fascinating character that while he’s clearly a villain, he’s almost understandable and you oddly can feel for him while be disgusted with what he does. Lorre excels at visual language from his face in this film as there are many a moment with SO MUCH conveyed with his reaction or a look as he’s saying something completely different than the intentions he’s conveying. Its a marvelous performance that would carry the film if it wasn’t strong in other areas.

The look of Mad Love is also quite special. There are a lot of sets that a hauntingly lit and put to great effect with luscious shadow and dark corners. The cinematography is a treat unto its own. Pauline Kael has even famously accused Orson Welles of ripping off a lot of the visual look of Mad Love with Citizen Kane. Whether or not that is true, is no matter. Mad Love is a beautiful looking movie. You could honestly accuse Spielberg and Lucas borrowing from this movie with Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark or Zemeckis for Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Its inspiration, appreciation, evolution and not theft.

There’s so much classic cinema and vintage horror joys to be found in Mad Love. Its a rather unique movie that feels like it inspired a great many things that came after it. France Drake turns in a fantastic performance that aligns perfectly with Lorre. Getting to see Colin Clive in this is also a treat, as he delivers some delicious delirious exchanges. Mad Love indeed is a cult classic from the 1930s, a gem that film fanatics, Lorre enthusiasts and horror fam folks should seek out and give a shot.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Layers: BD-25

Clarity/Detail: Mad Love‘s debut on Blu-ray cites a “new 2021 1080p HD master from 4K scan of best preservation elements”. For a film almost 90 years old, it looks rather fresh. There’s a nice, gothic look that comes across in the frame that feels somewhat romantic. Black saturation is pretty terrific here and details are plenty strong given the film’s age and preservation.

Depth:  Depth is pretty strong with the sets in this film feature a nice deep, pushed back feeling. Movements are filmic and smooth with no issues occurring from rapid motions causing any sort of jitter or blurring.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and rich and look absolutely lovely. There is a great amount of shadow in this lighting scheme and its rich and haunting and never swallows up detail or information on the screen. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: N/A

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are white/grey with the complexion depending on the performer. It stays consistent throughout. Facial features and textures fare best in close ups but some medium shots have good amounts of information discernible.

Noise/Artifacts: None

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Mad Love comes with a nice mono track that carries the charm of its time with a bit of a hiss/pop like that of a record playing. There’s no real issues with any peaking or the film sounding too muffled. Given your expectations be aware of films of this era, this should somewhat impress and be a nice accompaniment to the image.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp with an analog hiss at its base.

Extras

Audio Commentary

  • By Dr. Steve Haberman

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:05)

Summary

Mad Love was a film that delighted me with its dark, ghoulish and quirky twist on romance. Warner Archive Collection has restored the film to a very nice degree with its 4K scan and lossless audio. For an almost 90 year old film, it looks rather fresh. It comes equipped with a commentary and a trailer that is rather fun as its just Peter Lorre being interviewed about the movie and being his devilish self. I think this is a film looking for a new re-discovery, so I’d say collectors should give it a shot.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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