The Unknown (1927)

Unrated  |   |  Drama, Horror, Romance  |  4 June 1927 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 5,145 users  
Reviews: 95 user | 39 critic

A criminal on the run hides in a circus and seeks to possess the daughter of the ringmaster at any cost.



(story), (scenario), 2 more credits »
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2 nominations. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Nick De Ruiz ...
John George ...
Frank Lanning ...


Alonzo is an armless knife thrower and gun shooter for a circus---or so he appears. He is actually a burglar with his arms intact. He and his accomplice, Cojo (a little person), are hiding from the police, and Alonzo views his disguise as perfect, especially since it keeps from view an unusual deformity of his left hand that would immediately give him away as the burglar. Nanon, the daughter of the circus owner, is the target in his act. Although Alonzo is in love with her, Nanon's father despises him. Nanon is attracted to Malabar, the circus strong man, but she is also repulsed by his uninhibited sexual advances and desire to touch and hold her. Apparently her phobia extends to the touch of any man. Alonzo feeds her fears in the hopes that Nanon will fall in love with him since he is "armless." Because Zanzi discovers Alonzo really has arms, Alonzo kills him, but Nanon witnesses the killing without seeing Alonzo's face; however, she does see the telltale deformity of his left hand. ... Written by Patrick Robbins <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

4 June 1927 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alonzo the Armless  »

Box Office


$217,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (BFI print) | (alternate)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


In 2012, film director Guy Maddin named The Unknown (1927) one of the ten best films ever made in the decennial Sight & Sound Directors Poll of the Greatest Films of All Time. See more »


During the scene where we fist meet Alonzo and he is throwing knives with his feet, the shot shows the girl against the board and there are no knives. It cuts to Alonzo throwing and when it goes back to the girl to see the impact there are knives in a silhouette around her. See more »


Malabar the Mighty, Circus Strongman: You are a riddle, Nanon. You shrink from me... yet you kiss my flowers when I am gone.
See more »


Featured in Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

Another Browning Masterpiece
22 July 2001 | by (San Diego) – See all my reviews

This is a truly spellbinding movie, one of the more bizarre you are likely to see. With Lon Chaney hiding from the law pretending to be an armless circus performer. Joan Crawford is stunningly beautiful as Nanon, the girl he loves. A well done serpentine story that tells more in under an hour than most films made today can tell in two hours. Chaney is the best film actor of all time, he really was the man of a thousand faces. It is a shame that some Browning/Chaney films have been lost forever, but this is one that should be watched by all, it is fantastic.

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