7.9/10
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102 user 46 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.

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Writers:

(story), (scenario) | 1 more credit »
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1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Nick De Ruiz ...
Zanzi
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Costra
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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

Taglines:

A superb mystery thriller, unusual and startling even for a Chaney film. Lon as "The Unknown" eats, drinks, shoots a rifle and dresses with his feet. Don't miss this startling spectacle. (Print Ad- The Cobbleskill Index,((Cobbleskill, NY)) 13 October 1927)


Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

4 June 1927 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alonzo the Armless  »

Box Office

Budget:

$217,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (BFI print) | (alternate)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

As Paul Desmuke was born armless, he doubled for some shots of Lon Chaney where Desmuke used his feet for smoking or playing a fiddle. See more »

Goofs

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

Quotes

Malabar the Mighty, Circus Strongman: There is a time for fear, Nanon... and a time for hate... and a time for love.
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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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