7.5/10
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The Penalty (1920)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Horror | 3 June 1921 (Mexico)
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) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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...
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Frisco Pete (as James Mason)
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Milton Ross ...
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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:

You'll follow the career of Blizzard - legless king of San Francisco's underworld, with breathless interest. See more »


Certificate:

Passed
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Details

Country:

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Release Date:

3 June 1921 (Mexico)  »

Also Known As:

Bűntetés  »

Box Office

Budget:

$88,868 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

(2004 alternate)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

A shot of Lon Chaney walking down stairs was put onto the end to prove the audience that he was not an amputee. It was removed from the 1926 release and the film footage is now lost. See more »

Quotes

Older doctor: Good God, you should not have amputated!
Dr. Ferris: [No title but clearly mouthing the word] What?
Older doctor: You have mangled this child for life!
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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 »

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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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