Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 30: The Hands of Orlac

Scene from The Hands of Orlac (1924). Image Source: Old Hollywood.

For today, see one of the world's earliest horror films: The Hands of Orlac (1924). With its costumes and eerie acting, the late Expressionist Austrian silent Orlacs Hände is as fascinating as a window onto bygone culture as it is surprisingly modern. Directed by Robert Wiene, the plot is an account of fractured identity and overlapping realities, with some posthuman themes now familiar to us: "A concert pianist, Paul Orlac (Conrad Veidt), loses his hands in a railway accident. Replacement hands are transplanted onto him in an experimental procedure, but the hands are those of a recently-executed murderer." The film has some genuinely creepy moments. The movie was remade in 1935 and 1960, although the theme of an alien body part transplant having a life of its own has been repeated in many other films. See the film below the jump.

The Hands of Orlac (1924). Video Source: Youtube.

See all my posts on Horror themes.

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  1. I watched the first ten minutes to see what it was like and I'm just about to abandon my plans for the night to watch the whole thing.

    But no. I'll watch it later. I love this stuff. I saw "Faust" not too long ago. "The Hands of Orlac" is by the director of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and it has Conrad Veidt who is so great in "Caligari," "The Man Who Laughs" and "Casablanca."

    I adore "Mad Love" (Peter Lorre and Colin Clive and Francis Drake (especially Drake! She holds her own with Lorre and it's too bad she didn't get more roles as good as this) are all glorious) but "Hands of Orlac" looks quite a bit different. Not better or worse. Just different.

    I have no idea when I'm going to find time for this. But I'll get to it!

  2. Hi Tony, Thanks very much for your comment; these early films are not as long as today's feature films. I look at them as a hybrid between theatrical acting from the early 20th century and early cinema. You can tell from the make-up and acting styles how new dramatic film-making was. They also show that the very first movie plots gave us the same plots we are still watching in new films to this day. How many films, for example, have been made about someone who gets a transplanted body part and then becomes haunted by the disposition of the body part donor? 10? 20?

    I hope you enjoy the film. I saw it recently on Turner Classic Movies and thought I would include it on the countdown.

  3. I finished "The Hands of Orlac" this morning. (I, uh, fell asleep - TWICE! - while watching it. Which isn't a condemnation of the film at all. I was really busy on my days off work and din't get to it, so I was watching this at 2 or 3 in the morning after I got home from work and I was tired and I forgot how I am with silent films. If it's late, I doze off.)

    Conrad Veidt is great. I love the acting styles from this period, and I'm sometimes really surprised at how good old obscure German silent films are. (I highly recommend The Wildcat. It's a silent GEM of a film that almost nobody knows about. Early Lubitsch!)

    So, yeah, I really like The Hands of Orlac. That scene where he meets Nera in the dingy dive bar and Nera bllackmails him, pretending to be Vasseur? That's great.

    I'm going to have to look for more Veidt films.

  4. Hi Tony, Glad you enjoyed it! I notice that I'm so used to multi-tasking that it is hard for me to sit still and watch a silent film. I found a clip from Bergkatze, which you mentioned, on youtube; it's quite funny:



    There are several of these 1920s films on youtube.

  5. I would add to that, watching The Wildcat, that Pola Negri's acting reminds me a lot of Helena Bonham Carter.