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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Director Tod Browning loosely based the story on a real event of his circus days, where a man has masqueraded as an acrobat to evade the police. 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 »
One of the strong points of silent movies is that they are naive in the positive meaning of the word: they are creative.
If anyone does a story like that today, one has to choose to do a drama, a thriller or a black comedy. Browning did not have to choose... he just made a very strange film.
Another plus is the use of running time. No fillers. Just 60 minutes of strange ideas. The film is not perfect; and not anyone will enjoy it. But it features a great performance by Lon Chaney and nice photography (incl. creative use of backprojection). And if you like FREAKS, you have to see this one... the background of Browning as a circus assistant really shows up (though I hope, it wasn't that bad).
Sorry, no story details. I don't want to ruin your fun.
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