Top 11 Scariest Performances #6 Peter Lorre

"They think he's mad, but it is I who am mad!"

“They think he’s mad, but it is I who am mad!”

I’ve blogged about the 1935 film, Mad Love before.  It’s an underrated gem among horror– it deserves to be well-known.  Leading lady Frances Drake got the nod as one of my Top 10 Women in horror movies for her performance as Yvonne Orlac– now I praise Peter Lorre as the villain, Dr. Gogol.

The look Peter Lorre has in this movie makes me sorry he never played the Penguin… then again, that might have been too scary.  Anyway, since the plot has been detailed before, I’ll embed this link to the first post rather than repeat myself (

Lorre could do “predatory” incredibly well, and Mad Love is no exception.  Dr. Gogol is obsessed with the actress Yvonne Orlac; he knows she is not attracted to him, but does not let that fact (nor the fact that she is married), stop him from making advances, or kissing her forcefully on the mouth during a “kiss for a piece of cake” game at a party. The video is of the scene in Yvonne’s dressing room (

His anger is deadly.  When  Yvonne rebuffs his advances yet again, he decides to get revenge, knowing that his obsession is teetering on madness.  Director Karl Freund, and cinematographers Chester A. Lyons and Greg Toland get a nod here for the scene in which Gogol acknowledges his madness– Lorre’s acting is great, but without the special effects makes it a truly freaky scene.

The dialogue gets creepier, too, as Gogol gives into his dark cravings, and Lorre invests it with such a gusto, that you half believe he’s cracking up, and his crazy habit of narrating his actions to himself gets under the viewer’s skin pretty damn quickly.  “Now I will take her hair and strangle her!  She feels no pain.”  Brrr!

Better still is where Gogol tries to drive Yvonne’s husband, Stephen, over the edge by pretending to be the guillotined knife-thrower whose hands were grafted onto Stephen’s after a train wreck.  Dressed in some creepy mechanical getup to simulate where his hands have been replaced with mechanical ones, and his head reattached, Lorre is truly the stuff of a nightmare.


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