96 user 41 critic

The Unknown (1927)

Unrated | | Drama, Horror, Romance | 4 June 1927 (USA)
A criminal on the run hides in a circus and seeks to possess the daughter of the ringmaster at any cost.



(story), (scenario) | 1 more credit »

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2 nominations. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Nick De Ruiz ...


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


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?


As 'Peter Dismuki' was born armless, he doubled for some shots of Lon Chaney where Dismuki used his feet for smoking or playing a fiddle. 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 »


Referenced in Top 10 Lost Horror Films (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

Creepy, unsettling masterpiece!
19 May 2004 | by (Washington, DC) – See all my reviews

I've heard so much about this movie, and it was not a disappointment. The surviving print seems to be missing some scenes, which accounts for its short length, but I doubt it takes away much from this twisted, sadistic "Gift of the Magi" gone bad. Chaney's performance is remarkable and, at times, genuinely alarming, and the very young Joan Crawford is a typical, but nevertheless appealing silent film heroine. Parts of this film really had me squirming, particularly towards the end. Browning's visual sense is the most beautiful I've seen in any of his films other than Dracula, with a full range of greys, whites and blacks and painterly compositions. It's available on TCM's excellent Lon Chaney Collection DVD.

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