MOVIEmeter
SEE RANK
Down 461 this week

The Unknown (1927)

 -  Drama | Horror | Romance  -  4 June 1927 (USA)
7.9
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.9/10 from 4,571 users  
Reviews: 94 user | 38 critic

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

Director:

Writers:

(story), (scenario), 2 more credits »
0Check in
0Share...

Editors' Spotlight

IMDb Picks: August

IMDb's editors share the movies and TV shows they recommend for August 2014.


User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

list image
a list of 40 titles
created 26 Oct 2012
 
a list of 42 titles
created 07 Nov 2012
 
a list of 33 titles
created 06 Jul 2013
 
a list of 35 titles
created 7 months ago
 
a list of 44 titles
created 5 months ago
 

Related Items

Search for "The Unknown" on Amazon.com

Connect with IMDb


Share this Rating

Title: The Unknown (1927)

The Unknown (1927) on IMDb 7.9/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of The Unknown.
2 nominations. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A magician seeks vengeance upon the man who paralyzed him and the illegitimate daughter he sired with the magician's wife.

Director: Tod Browning
Stars: Lon Chaney, Lionel Barrymore, Mary Nolan
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A sideshow ventriloquist, midget, and strongman form a conspiracy known as "The Unholy Three" and commit a series of robberies.

Director: Tod Browning
Stars: Lon Chaney, Mae Busch, Matt Moore
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

When an animal trapper in Indo-China finds that his daughter's fiancé is being successfully seduced by her estranged mother, he takes appropriate action.

Director: Tod Browning
Stars: Lon Chaney, Lupe Velez, Estelle Taylor
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

"Talkie" remake of Tod Browning's 1925 silent film. A trio of former sideshow performers double as the "Unholy Three" in a scam to nab some shiny rocks.

Director: Jack Conway
Stars: Lon Chaney, Lila Lee, Elliott Nugent
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A romantic rivalry among members of a secret society becomes even tenser when one of the men is assigned to carry out an assassination.

Director: Wallace Worsley
Stars: Lon Chaney, Leatrice Joy, John Bowers
Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A mad, disfigured composer seeks love with a lovely young opera singer.

Directors: Rupert Julian, Lon Chaney, and 2 more credits »
Stars: Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry
Drama | Horror | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

When a proud noble refuses to kiss the hand of the despotic King James in 1690, he is cruelly executed and his son surgically disfigured.

Director: Paul Leni
Stars: Mary Philbin, Conrad Veidt, Julius Molnar
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

In fifteenth century Paris, the brother of the archdeacon plots with the gypsy king to foment a peasant revolt. Meanwhile, a freakish hunchback falls in love with the gypsy queen.

Director: Wallace Worsley
Stars: Lon Chaney, Patsy Ruth Miller, Norman Kerry
The Penalty (1920)
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

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.

Director: Wallace Worsley
Stars: Charles Clary, Doris Pawn, Jim Mason
Certificate: Passed Crime | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

In this early collaboration with director Tod Browning (Dracula, Freaks), Chaney delivers a dual performance of dramatic intensity, starring as Ah Wing, a kind-hearted student of Confucian ... See full summary »

Director: Tod Browning
Stars: Priscilla Dean, Wheeler Oakman, Lon Chaney
Freaks (1932)
Drama | Horror | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A circus' beautiful trapeze artist agrees to marry the leader of side-show performers, but his deformed friends discover she is only marrying him for his inheritance.

Director: Tod Browning
Stars: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova
The Big City (1928)
Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Director: Tod Browning
Stars: Lon Chaney, Marceline Day, James Murray
Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Alonzo
Norman Kerry ...
Malabar
...
Nanon
Nick De Ruiz ...
Zanzi
John George ...
Frank Lanning ...
Edit

Storyline

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 <elfdorado@sbcglobal.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

love | circus | surgery | murderer | surgeon | See more »


Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

4 June 1927 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alonzo the Armless  »

Box Office

Budget:

$217,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (BFI print) | (alternate)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

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

Quotes

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 »

Connections

Referenced in The Woman Next Door (1981) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
And strange it certainly is -- almost defiantly so.
27 June 2007 | by (Chinatown, California) – See all my reviews

Tod Browning is one of the great mysteries of film history. His life story is filled with contradictions (some he created himself). No one argues the fact that he was the architect of the classic American horror film Dracula (1931), with Bela Lugosi as Dracula. His success is one that is grounded in his macabre but decidedly non-supernatural silent works. Beyond that the story gets cloudy. The "official" line is that he went on to make Freaks (1932) and the results were so horrific that it virtually destroyed his career, making the studio keep a tight rein on his subsequent genre efforts.

At the top of the list for strangeness is The Unknown (1927), one of the great silent films of all time. It was also one of the most offbeat psychological dramas ever produced by a major studio, especially one such as MGM. The collaboration between director/writer Tod Browning, himself a one time circus performer, and the intense performance by Lon Chaney, was a thing of magic.

The focus of the story is Alonzo (Lon Chaney) is an armless knife-thrower in a gypsy circus, known as "Alonzo, The Armless Wonder." He's really not armless, but has his arms strapped to his sides to appear limbless since he wishes to hide his identity from the cops. He's a career criminal on the run who with his cohort Cojo (John George), and continues to commit robberies while touring with the circus. Cojo is the only one who knows his secret and is the only friend he has. Alonzo is able to fling the knives with the toes of his feet, and his assistant Nano (Joan Crawford) is the target. She's the beautiful daughter of the circus owner and ringmaster, Zanzi (Nick de Ruiz).

Alonzo has become obsessed with Nano, and would do anything in the world for her love. He would also, he tells Cojo, do anything he could to someone who takes her away from him. Nano has a bit of a psychological problem, she can't stand any man who puts their arms around her or who tries to touch her. She feels very safe with Alonzo and they develop an affectionate bond of friendship, where she feels good hugging him. The circus strongman Malabar (Kerry) also compulsively loves her and won't take no for an answer, but he keeps putting his arms around her as she pushes him away.

Zanzi doesn't trust Alonzo and when he sees his daughter alone with him again, his anger builds because he feels he is putting "ideas" in his daughter's head. In a fit of rage he beats Alonzo with a whip until Malabar puts a stop to it and receives the thanks of Alonzo. But one evening Zanzi again confronts Alonzo, this time in the dark shadows nearby Nano's wagon and he notices that Alonzo has arms. This causes Alonzo to strangle him to death, but Nano could only see that the strangler had two thumbs on one hand.

Realizing that he can't marry her if he has arms, Alonzo decides to have them cut off. Alonzo blackmails a doctor (Lanning) into doing the procedure. But when he returns to see Nano, she tells him that she overcame her fear of having a man put her arms around her and will marry Malabar. The scene in this film when he realizes that he's cut off his arms for nothing is one of the most emotional in all of silent film (perhaps all of film), and it consists mostly of a closeup of his face as the horrible irony registers. Chaney's performance, and maybe our instinctive support of the underdog, has the odd effect of making you hope that he wins in the end, even though he's a murderer and he plots to have Malabar's arms ripped from his body by horses.

We get a glimpse of the pain that Chaney must have felt with his arms strapped to his chest day after day on the set. Mirroring that is a scene when he distractedly lights a cigarette with his feet, an intricate process that was aided by Peter Dismuki, a real armless man who served as a stunt double for many of Chaney's actions. Cojo (John George), Alonzo's dwarf assistant, looks on with growing mirth until he bursts out, reminding Alonzo that his arms aren't bound.

In the late silent period, filmmakers were advancing their art at an astonishing pace. Over at Fox, F.W. Murnau was making the most elegant of all silent films, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, which seemingly liberated the camera from gravity and demonstrated breathtaking in-camera optical effects. Browning and cinematographer Merritt B. Gerstad were not so precocious, but their experiments with filters and camera placement are nearly as intriguing. In a beautifully composed scene, Nanon grieves over her father's death and struggles between her love for the strongman Malabar and her fear of his hands; Malabar enters the room and confesses his undying love for her and his willingness to wait until her fear subsides. The shots are filmed through a heavy gauze that gives the entire composition the look of an oil painting with visible brushwork; it adds a softness and an intimacy that's similar to the effect later directors desired when they used soft-focus closeups of smiling women's faces, but there's nothing silly about its use here.

With that being said, Lon Chaney always played wild, scary and intriguing roles that garnered our pity and our sympathies no matter how horrifying they were. Part of the reason is because Chaney could play the agony of unrequited love like nobody else. His ability to lose the girl, when the movie hero would usually win her, was remarkably heartbreaking. This is just one reason why Chaney made an indelible impression on the history of cinema. The other was that he had a creepy presence on screen – even when he played the good guy.


20 of 21 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Anyone know wher e i can buy this? homeofleia
I saw it on TCM last night... drdebacle
masterpiece masterpiece masterpiece rflock
Cover Art Not Accurate xmaseve49
Discuss The Unknown (1927) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?