Peter Lorre Season at BFI Southbank
Season marks the fiftieth anniversary of Lorre’s death and will include screenings of 22 films including M, Mad Love, Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon
Tuesday 2 September – Tuesday 7 October 2014
BFI Southbank today announces a season dedicated to one of the most nuanced and complex actors of his generation Peter Lorre.
Marking the fiftieth anniversary of his death, this five week retrospective from Tuesday 2 September – Tuesday 7 October will feature some of Lorre’s most celebrated roles.
Lorre was famed for playing sinister characters and even holds the prestigious position of being the first actor to ever portray a Bond villain, when he played Le Chiffre in a 1954 television adaptation of Casino Royale. The season will showcase a number of Lorre’s villainous screen moments such as The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and Crime and Punishment (1935), as well as his roles in some of the most iconic films of the golden age of Hollywood including Casablanca (1942) and The Maltese Falcon (1941). The centrepiece of the season will be the film which made Lorre a star, Fritz Lang’s psychological thriller M (1931), re-released by the BFI in cinemas across the UK on September 5.
Born László Loewenstein in the small Austro-Hungarian town of Rószahegy (now in present day Slovakia), Lorre won critical acclaim for his theatre work with Bertolt Brecht and international fame beckoned after his first major film role as a compulsive child murderer in M. Made two years before Hitler came to power Lang’s film was renowned for its striking imagery and inventive use of sound; playing on extended run at BFI Southbank this re-release can now be enjoyed in a pin-sharp restoration. Also screening in the season will be both films Lorre made with the master of suspense, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and Secret Agent (1936); Lorre’s understated style and subtle humour were perfectly suited to both these Hitchcock thrillers.
Despite only appearing on screen for a few minutes, the season would not be complete without a screening of Casablanca (1942) in which Lorre makes an unforgettable appearance as Urgarte, a shady crook dealing in exit visas. Made the following year was The Mark of Dimitrios (1943), a stylish thriller which had Lorre unusually cast as a Dutch mystery writer who is inspired by the true- life tale of evil genius Dimitrios Makropoulos.
Lorre’s first American film, Mad Love (1935) combined pacey Hollywood entertainment with European arty panache; rejected by the public as ‘sick’ it was everything an audience could wish for in a B-movie. Screening alongside it will be The Face Behind the Mask (1941), which offered Lorre a rare chance to win the audience’s sympathy as a Hungarian immigrant who becomes a social outcast when he suffers horrific injuries in a fire. The season will also offer audiences a chance to see two of the eight films in which Lorres starred as the dapper Japanese detective Mr Moto – Think Fast, Mr Moto (1937) and Mr Moto Takes a Vacation (1939).
Lorre worked with many celebrated directors, and the season will offer audiences a chance to see a number of classic films on the big screen, including John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon (1941), Frank Capra’s Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Roger Corman’s The Raven (1963) and Rouben Mamoulian’s Silk Stockings (1957), the latter of which saw Lorre steel the show as a Russian Commissar with some unexpectedly dapper dance moves. Also screening will be Lorre’s only directorial offering The Lost One (1951); this flawed but fascinating blend of noir and neorealism was set amid the ruins of post-war Hamburgh, and starred Lorre as a doctor whose life is darkened by a terrible secret.
The selection of twenty two films from his vast filmography being screened in the season shows how Lorre both exploited and subverted his image, revealing a versatility which stretched from comedy, drama and adventure to even a Fred Astaire musical.
For more information on the season, please Click Here.