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The Unknown
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Unknown More at IMDbPro »

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this movie changed my standards for silent films.

7/10
Author: neeleythezombie from United States
15 February 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The unknown was a very entertaining and enjoyable film that had raised my expectations and appreciation for silent films. My little experience with silent films had given me an impression that they were not very serious and more so a transition used to help improve and experiment with film technology, this movie has drastically changed that view.

The unknown did a very good job of establishing a relatively complex plot without the use of anything other than music and brief caption slides. the movie was also able to keep this plot easy to follow with the restrictions of sound. my only large complaint on the movie was Nanon's unrealistic fear of men's hands as if they were some sort of sentient attachment to mens arms.

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first silent film for me

7/10
Author: j-schardt from United States
2 February 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The movie The Unknown was the first full silent film I have ever view from being to end. I was very impress on just how much feeling the actors could portray without using words.I thought in some cases like the actors seemed a bit dramatic(the scene when Nanon Zanzi describes her fear of hands) but as the movie went on it seemed that there dramatic's made for a more suspenseful film. I also felt that Nanon gave up her fear of hands to fast. Something more significant should have happened when to make her give up her extreme fear of mans hands. The sound track I felt played a huge part. The movie would not have been the same without the constant creppy music playing in the background, telling the audience when to except and anticipate whats going to happen next.

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exciting but scary

8/10
Author: Sweets742 from United States
2 February 2010

I would like to talk about the editing first. When Nanon was being rotated on the wheel device, her clothes were shot off. To me the editing was a little off. One second they were there, the next they weren't. I found it funny when all the men were after nanon. But would always end up with the same guy who has no arms! I really liked that this silent film had a lot more words then other silent films. Usually you would get a sentence here and there. It kept you up with everything that was going on. So that you wouldn't get lost. I thought the editing was alright except for the fights and animals. I enjoyed the cinematography. It made it seem that you were watching the circus. The acting was alright. I think Nanon father really reminded me as a ring leader.

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The Unknown

7/10
Author: aeboynton from United States
27 January 2010

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It was amazing to be able to see Lon Chaney function normally through seemingly mundane tasks using only his two feet. This aspect made his character, Alonzo (the carnival knife thrower) all that more believable and helped to make the story seem more realistic to the viewer. Estrellita did not seem real to me because her fear was so strange and there was very little background as to how it developed or what may have happened to her in the past that caused it. I felt the story could have been made stronger if we knew more about Alonzo's past and why he decided to act as the armless man. There was good editing in scenes where Alonzo is throwing the knifes at Estrellita with his feet and where Estrellita and her fiancé are performing a new carnival act where it seems as if his arms could dislocate from his body at any second.

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Great!

9/10
Author: crimsonsanctuary from United States
27 January 2010

I loved this movie. I never thought I could be a fan of silent movies, but this had defiantly proved me wrong. I thought the plot line of the movie was strong, but could have been more detailed. This movie was well developed for the time period it was released in. What I found to be interesting was Alonzo's delusional mind, and how his delusions played out in the movie. What I thought was stupid in the movie was Nanon's fear of hands, mens hands. The idea worked in the movie, but I feel that they emphasized it way too much in the movie. I would recommend this movie for anyone except children, because they would not understand what is going on in the movie, and probably wouldn't keep their attention on the movie since it is a silent film.

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Sinister Cinema Classic

7/10
Author: oconnor0930 from United States
27 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The Unknown" is definitely a must see not only for it being an important step in the history of film, but because the plot is captivating. Alonzo (Lon Chaney), the supposed no-armed man, falls in love with Nanon (Joan Crawford). However, after Nanon witnesses a double thumbed man murder her father, Alonzo has to make a choice: either have his arms surgically removed and profess his love to Nanon or keep his arms but never be able to be with Nanon. Alonzo must avoid Nanon – the one thing he seeks – for fear of her finding out her secret.

Going with the sinister nature of "The Unknown", Alonzo has his arms removed after blackmailing a surgeon. But all was for naught, as Nanon reveals her plans to marry another man. This jealousy, and loss of everything Alonzo had worked for, sets him off. Alonzo seeks the ultimate (and ironic) revenge when he fouls up a circus trick, leaving Nanon's fiancé armless. Although this revenge, as well as the majority of the movie's plot, was very predictable, the director (Tod Browning) did an excellent job of building suspense through a series of fast cuts and quick shots. The film sped up, making the audience sit on the edge of their seats.

"The Unknown" is a great movie despite having simple sets (which are still beautiful nonetheless). The characters have real chemistry and the actors are very expressive. One of the movie's strong suits was the reaction shots throughout the movie. They built much needed suspense in a movie plagued by predictability. The score and sound complimented the film well, creating suspense and setting the mood throughout the movie. All in all, "The Unknown" proves to be a timeless classic, no matter how sinister a story it is.

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great film

Author: m-santana from United States
26 January 2010

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The Unknown, was in fact my first silent movie experience. Although I was skeptic to begin with, I was impressed. Often when I watch movies I get caught up in other aspects, such as distracting music. Despite the repetitive music through most of the movie, the music actually seemed appropriate for the intertitles. A nice pace was set which allowed the audience to almost create a voice for the characters as they read.

The title itself, now a days would have been interpreted as something thats supernatural, not a classic meaning such as a secret. It was quite refreshing to watch a movie with a true, naked sense of realism.

Lon Chaney (Alonzo the Armless) did an excellent job with his facial expressions throughout the movie to show his love for his assistant (Joan Crawford). The editing back and forth from the intertitles and his reaction to her engagement was not overdone. That scene especially had a genuine convincing element to the audience. Although it may have been easy to foreshadow the upcoming events, Alonzo's pain was still felt by the audience.

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Men Without Arms

9/10
Author: zardoz-13 from United States
26 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Long thought to be a lost film, "The Unknown" was unearthed by archivists in the 1970s in unmarked film canisters in Paris. This Todd Browning & Lon Chaney collaboration qualifies as one of the more unusual romantic/horror movies that you will ever watch. This moody, black & white, 1927 silent epic focuses on a shady circus knife thrower named Alonzo (Lon Chaney of "The Unholy Three") who apparently has no arms, but he can use his legs for more than just walking. Indeed, he can fire a rifle, play a guitar, throw knives, light cigarettes, and drink wine with his toes. He works for a one-ring gypsy circus in Spain. The daughter of circus owner Antonio Zanzi, Nanon (Joan Crawford of "The Women"), has a phobia about men laying their beastly hands on her. Incredibly, she shrinks in fear when men try to put their hands on her and the only man that she trusts is Alonzo, simply because he has no arms with which to touch her.

Nevertheless, her protective father Antonio (Nick De Ruiz of "Viva Villa!") does not approve of the relationship between Alonzo and his shapely daughter. As it turns out, Alonzo is not armless. He wears a corset under his clothing and keeps his arms strapped down by day. The only person who knows about this well-kept secret is his faithful assistant, Cojo (John George of "Don Juan"), and Cojo would never tell anybody under any circumstances. One evening, Antonio confronts Alonzo about his daughter and whips the robe that Alonzo is wearing off his body. Instantly, but not quickly enough, Alonzo tries to conceal his arms, but the ruse up over. Antonio knows the truth about Alonzo. Alonzo has no alternative but to strangle Nanon's father to death. Ironically, Nanon witnesses the crime from her caravan, but all she can see is the back of the murderer and his distinctive trademark--he has two thumbs on one hand. Alonzo escapes without getting caught, but the Spanish authorities want Cojo to have his fingerprints made.

Meanwhile, the strongman Malabar (Norman Kerry of "Three Live Ghosts") loves Nanon with every fiber of his body and brings her flowers. He is a sympathetic muscle man. Naturally, Nanon abhors Malabar, but he never stops loving her. After the murder of Antonio, Alonzo convinces Nanon not to continue on with the circus. One evening Nanon embraces Alonzo and kisses him. Cojo warns his friend that he must never allow Nanon to hug him again or she may discover his secret. Alonzo is slouched in a chair one evening with his arms unbound and he unconsciously lights a cigarette with his toes. Cojo thinks that it is funny that his friend has forgotten about his arms to the extent that he relies entirely on his feet. This gives Alonzo an idea. He blackmails a surgeon for something that occurred twenty years ago to amputate both arms so he can marry Nanon. Oh, the cruel tricks that fate plays on people. Nanon loses her--as she calls it--foolish fears about having the arms of a man around her and plans to marry Malabar. When Alonzo returns from his operation, he receives the surprise of his life about the change that has taken place in Nanon. Later, Alonzo learns that Malabar has an act that he stages where he puts himself between two horses galloping on a treadmill with Nanon lashing them with a whip. Alonzo tries to kill Malabar by locking the stagehand in a back room who supervises the speed of the treadmills on which the horses run.

Love does funny things to people and "The Unknown" exemplifies the changes that can take place. Of course, the story is rather contrived, but poetic justice wins out in the end!

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Strange Silent Film

7/10
Author: tbello22 from United States
24 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

At first when I heard that this movie was more disturbing than Tod Brownings other films such as Freaks and Dracula I thought there was no way that could be possible because both of those films are extremely disturbing. This film being released in 1927 must have been a real shock to audiences at the time. I am a big fan of horror movies and seeing one of the original horror films really showed me how far we have come with scaring people.

Although i consider this a very good film it has a lot of things that could have been improved. I thought that the 63 minute length could have been expanded into a bigger story such as events leading up to the opening scene in the circus. The scene were he goes to the doctors office to get his arms removed could have been shown more in depth.

Lon Chaney was always known for playing grotesque roles in films during that period and his portrayal of Alonzo the Armless was unforgettable. He was the perfect actor to play this part, his strong emotions made you feel like you weren't even watching a silent film. After he comes back from getting his arms permanently removed he sees the girl he has been after with Malabar and his facial expressions are shocking and disturbing. We also see a young Joan Crawford who later went on to star in huge films. She played the role Nanon who seemed to always care about Alonzo but never in the way that Alonzo wanted. The things that he was willing to do in order to get Nanon to love him were strange, hiding his arms because he was scared to show her the truth made the story as great as it was.

Although the music in the film was later put in, it made the movie very intense and made you sit on the edge of your seat. The music had a disturbing sound to it, that was perfect for it. This movie was one of the original horror films and if you are a true fan of horror movies this one is a must see.

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Amazing

8/10
Author: iLoveKHepburn from United States
22 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie was amazing. I never really watched silent films because I thought I wouldn't like them, but this movie was so good that it didn't matter. It was fast passed and thrilling, very intense. The characters brought this movie to life with their brilliant expressions and body movements, it was raw emotion. And Joan Crawford's beauty illuminates the screen. It was directed by Tod Browning who also directed the moving Freaks which is one of my favorites, and Dracula. I didn't give this movie a 10 because in my eyes nothing is perfect and I didn't give it a nine because it was a somewhat predictable. But all in all this movie is evokes horror without gore and it really draws you in.

P.S. I wasn't sure if my review gave anything away so I checked spoiler alert just to be on the safe side.

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