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The Hands of Orlac (1924)

Orlacs Hände (original title)
Not Rated | | Crime, Horror, Mystery | 4 June 1928 (USA)
A world-famous pianist loses both hands in an accident. When new hands are grafted on, he doesn't know they once belonged to a murderer.

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Cast

Cast overview:
...
Paul Orlac (as Veidt)
Alexandra Sorina ...
Yvonne Orlac (as Sorina)
Fritz Strassny ...
Der alle Orlac (as Strassny)
Paul Askonas ...
Der Diener (as Askonas)
Carmen Cartellieri ...
Regine (as Cartellieri)
Hans Homma ...
Dr. Serral (as Homma)
Fritz Kortner ...
Nera (as Kortner)
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Storyline

Orlac is a world famous pianist. One day he is badly hurt in a big train wreck. He is in danger of losing both his hands so his wife begs the doctors to save them. They eventually manage to transplant his hands with those of another deceased person. After his recovery Orlac discovers that there is something seriously wrong with his new pair of hands -- it is as if they had a will of their own. But Orlac doesn't know that they actually belonged to a dangerous murderer. Written by Aljaz Ciber, Slovenia

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

Not Rated
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Details

Country:

|

Release Date:

4 June 1928 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Hands of Orlac  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (restored DVD) | (2013 restored)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film was incomplete for decades, due to footage that never made it into the American prints and footage that had been cut due to censorship in German prints. The film was restored to its original length in 1995 by F. W. Murnau Stiftung. See more »

Goofs

When Orlac reads a newspaper, the headlines are in German but the body in French. See more »

Connections

Remade as Body Parts (1991) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Excellent performances, ponderous pacing needs better musical score
28 July 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I've been looking for a DVD of THE HANDS OF ORLAC ever since I knew the film existed. Now it's finally here, and like most silent films it's a mixed bag. I find the image on the new KINO disc to be acceptable considering the problematic nature of the source material. There's a loss of definition in some scenes, but there are also moments of sharpness in the restored Murnau Foundation print. It's a shame we can never experience non-talking films the way 1920s audiences did, without washed-out contrasts, image-flickers, frame-jitters, dirt, and print damage. Even the best restorations don't look new.

The plot concerns a concert pianist whose hands are smashed in a train wreck. A surgeon replaces them with the hands an executed criminal. Soon the pianist is obsessed with thoughts he might be a killer. The performances are generally excellent in the Expressionistic style. Conrad Veidt's exaggerated grimacing as his character Paul Orlac approaches madness is tempered by moments that are extremely moving.

The score of mostly string music on the KINO disc is creepy and works well for a while, but is so monotonous over the entire length of an already ponderously paced film that I grew tired of it. This film cries out for music that varies its mood to fit what is happening on screen. Contrasts in the mood of the music would make the creepy parts seem even creepier. An optional score in a traditional style would have been nice. Nevertheless, the Gothic set design and shadow-infested cinematography by Gunther Krampf - particularly the scenes at Orlac's father's house - create the atmosphere we know and love in early horror films. These chiaroscuro light-and-shadow effects just cannot be achieved with color.

However, to evoke fear without the modern cheats of gore and violence - to create what the Germans call "stimmung" (mood) - requires not only imaginative lighting and set design, but time. Unfortunately director Robert Weine spends too much time on the actors' very deliberate expressionistic movements at the expense of pacing.

The ending is likewise unsatisfactory, although it does follow Maurice Renard's novel. I won't give too much away other than to say the ending undercuts an apparently fantastic element, yet makes the "logical" explanation seem almost as implausible. Nevertheless, the build-up to the resolution as well as Veidt's engrossing performance makes this a worthwhile, if uninspired, film.


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