Prizefighter Mason loses his opening fight so wife Rose leaves him for Hollywood. Without her around Mason trains and starts winning. Rose comes back and wants Mason to dump his manager Regan and replace him with her secret lover Lewis.
Lon Chaney gets to play his own evil twin in this Tod Browning crime adventure. The "Blackbird" is a low-life criminal who falls in love with Fifi, a music hall performer. Unfortunately, someone else loves her too: posh "West End Bertie," who wears a topper and a monocle like Bertie Wooster, but who's actually a crook himself, not above robbing his own friends while they're out slumming (including watching "chinkys" smoking opium).
The Blackbird and Bertie decide to become a team, but tension mounts as the Blackbird realizes that Fifi is falling for Bertie. Mixed in to the plot is the Blackbird's ex, who seems on a crusade to reform him, and his brother 'The Bishop', a helpless cripple known for his work among the poor. Blackbird and Bishop share a room but are never seen together.
The ending is tragic, as could be expected, but not without a trace of "cornball."
Browning's direction is excellent. He sets up the Limehouse location at the opening by showing a sequence of faces that evoke the atmosphere more than a mere set could do. He knew how to get the best out of Chaney, but the others in the cast also do a fine job with their facial expressions, all masterfully captured by Browning. The new score by Robert Israel, containing snippets from Chopin and others, fits the period well and never intrudes.
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