Robert Wiene is best known for directing The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but this is yet another masterwork. It’s been remade four times, as Mad Love in 1935, The Hands of Orlac, Hands of a Stranger in 1962 and Body Parts in 1991. They all are versions of the 1920 novel Les Mains d’Orlac by French writer Maurice Renard.
It also was kind of sort of remade as The Hand, The Beast With Five Fingers, The Crawling Hand, Les Mains de Roxana and segments in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and Body Bags.
Concert pianist Paul Orlac (Conrad Veidt) loses his hands in an accident only to receive a transplant of the hands from an executed murderer, a fact that begins to drive him insane. The surgeon tries to tell him that a person is not governed by hands, but by the head and heart. But Paul knows — he’s now obsessed by the idea of killing someone.
Now that he can no longer play piano, Orlac is destitute. He goes to ask his father for money, only to find him stabbed by the same knife the killer once used. It gets worse. He’s unsure if he killed his father or not, so he goes to drink, and meets a man who claims to be the killer. Could the surgeon have transplanted a new body on the hands of the killer? Perhaps. But whomever the man is, he begins to blackmail Orlac.
There’s a twist which I won’t give away — why spoil a movie that’s 98 years old — but this movie is still a great watch so many years later.