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The Penalty (1920)

Passed  -  Crime | Drama | Horror  -  August 1920 (USA)
7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 1,154 users  
Reviews: 28 user | 34 critic

A deformed criminal mastermind plans to loot the city of San Francisco as well as revenge himself on the doctor who mistakenly amputated his legs.

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(by), (adapted from his famous novel), 2 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Charles Clary ...
Doris Pawn ...
Jim Mason ...
Frisco Pete (as James Mason)
...
Milton Ross ...
...
Kenneth Harlan ...
...
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Storyline

Blizzard, deranged from a childhood operation in which both his legs were perhaps needlessly amputated after an accident, becomes a vicious criminal, and eventually mob leader of the San Francisco underworld. Out for revenge against the surgeon who performed his operation, he undergoes brain surgery which has a chance of altering his anti-social behavior. Written by Doug Sederberg <vornoff@sonic.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Blizzard, master of San Francisco's underworld, legless, deformed--the weirdest character ever presented on the screen--you'll never forget him. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Horror

Certificate:

Passed
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

August 1920 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bűntetés  »

Box Office

Budget:

$89,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(2004 alternate)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Lichtenstein can clearly be seen mouthing the word "Damn!" See more »

Quotes

Blizzard: [to his white slaves] By the way, Barbara Nell, who strayed from us, now sleeps on a marble slab.
See more »

Crazy Credits

There is no cast list, but the 8 main actors and their character names are credited in the inter-titles as each appear in the film. See more »

Connections

Featured in Time of the Robots (2012) See more »

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User Reviews

Creative, Atmospheric Story With a Fine Performance By Lon Chaney
27 July 2004 | by (Ohio) – See all my reviews

Combining a creative, atmospheric story with a fine performance by Lon Chaney makes "The Penalty" an effective and memorable suspense classic. In one of his earliest leading roles, Chaney is a complete success, both in defining an unusual character and in bringing out everything inside the mind of the sinister "Blizzard". You can already see his determination to make his character visually convincing and flawless, even at the cost of great discomfort. Chaney also shows, as he would so many times, his rare skill in using facial expressions and gestures to show just the right amount of emotion and intensity.

The story is quite interesting in itself, and though it slightly stretches plausibility at times, it is by no means predictable. The brief opening scene of the childhood accident efficiently sets up the background for the strange world dominated by Chaney's vengeful character when he becomes an adult. From there, the well-crafted story keeps you interested and keeps you guessing. The settings are well-chosen, creating an interesting and appropriate atmosphere, with Blizzard's strange hideout and the sculptress's cluttered studio both standing in contrast with the respectable-looking Dr. Ferris and the other characters.

A mere account of the events in the story would not convey the success of the movie in creating a distinctive world in which the characters come to life. This is also a case in which a silent film is probably more effective than a sound film would have been. One of the main flaws in many movies of this type is the vapid dialogue that dissipates the tension through unintentional humor. Here, the title cards need only convey some basic ideas - the rest of it is handled without sound by Chaney, by the rest of the cast, and by the production crew who put everything together so well.


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