The Unknown (1927)

Unrated  |   |  Drama, Horror, Romance  |  4 June 1927 (USA)
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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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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
See  »

Did You Know?


Included among the '1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die', edited by Steven Jay Schneider. See more »


When Alonzo and Cojo are drinking wine, the glass suddenly fills between shots. See more »


Malabar the Mighty, Circus Strongman: See, Nanon! Eyes that adore you... hands that long to caress you... and strength to protect you! Why do you always draw away from me?
Nanon Zanzi: Why isn't he different from other men! Why doesn't he keep his hands off me?
Nanon Zanzi: Hands! Men's hands! How I hate them!
Nanon Zanzi: Men! The beasts! God would show wisdom if he took the hands from all of them!
Nanon Zanzi: Forgive me, Alonzo... I did not mean you.
Nanon Zanzi: You are the one man I can come to without fear.
See more »


Referenced in Tod Browning's 'Freaks': The Sideshow Cinema (2004) 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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