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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Hands of Orlac (1924)


Starring: Conrad Veidt, Alexandra Sorina, Fritz Kortner, Carmen Cartellieri, Fritz Strassny and Paul Askonas
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £20.99


Certificate: PG
Release Date: 14 June 2021

Loving young wife Yvonne Orlac excitedly awaits the return of her husband, renowned concert pianist Paul Orlac. When the shocking news of a serious train collision reaches her, Yvonne arranges to be driven to the site of the wreckages. She finds her husband with horrific injuries. At the hospital she is informed he must have an operation on his head, but she is just as concerned about his ruined hands and begs the surgeon to help him. A convicted and recently executed murderer has his body intercepted, and the surgeon transplants the killer’s hands onto Paul. When he learns what has taken place, the former pianist becomes paranoid about the possibility of hurting individuals – even his own wife. As they head towards becoming destitute, Yvonne visit’s Paul’s rich and estranged father for help. When she is spurned she appeals to Paul to speak with him. However, when Paul’s father is found murdered, all the evidence points to the pianist. But is he guilty or has he been set-up...?

Eureka Entertainments Masters of Cinema releases The Hands of Orlac, the 1924 silent horror thriller classic directed by Robert Wiene and starring Conrad Veidt (Das Cabinet Des Dr Claigari, The Man Who Laughs, Waxworks). On Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, this influential film presentation is from a restoration by Film Archiv Austria. Extra features include: a new feature length commentary by author Stephen Jones and author/film critic Kim Newman; a new video essay by filmmakers David Cairns and Fiona Watson; a collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Philip Kemp and Tim Lucas; and an alternative presentation of the film (courtesy of the F. W. Murnau Foundation) featuring a different film source and varied takes of certain scenes. This includes a music score by Paul Mercer. There is also a film comparisons feature highlighting the differences between the two versions of the movie.

I had been meaning to add this film to my collection, so it is with delight that I welcome it for review. It’s certainly a silent classic which stands on the shirttails of Nosferatu, Der Golem, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Phantom of the Opera, the aforementioned Das Cabinet Des Dr Caligari, and others – and has been copied in various formats over the years. The style is described as German Expressionism, but the truth of the matter is that in the silent movie era this is how films were made. The absence of speech is countered with additional movement, expression and emotion in a similar way that the artform is projected out to the audience in a theatre. Nevertheless, Conrad Veidt is impressive (and expressive!) in the role. This may not appeal to the younger viewers, but for film collectors this is a must.


Ty Power

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