This remake of West of Zanzibar (1928) made four years later tries to outdo the Lon Chaney original in morbidity. From a wheelchair a handicapped white man rules an area of Africa as a ... See full summary »
Magician Phroso's wife Anna leaves him for another man, named Crane, who fights with Phroso and leaves him paralyzed. Later Anna returns and he finds her dead, leaving behind a daughter. For 18 years Phroso, known as "Dead Legs" by his cronies, plots his revenge, becoming a pseudo-king in East Africa, nearby where Crane has set up an ivory business. When the daughter is grown, having lived in a brothel in Zanzibar thanks to "Dead Legs", Phroso put his plan into action, resulting in revenge and retribution all around. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <email@example.com>
Very interesting and unusual silent film starring Lon Chaney as Phrosos the Magician, a stage show performer who has a wife he really loves - but she informs him she is planning to leave him for a man named Crane (Lionel Barrymore). When Crane tells Phrosos he is taking her away to Africa - he fights with Phrosos sending him falling over the railing of a second floor landing. His legs now paralyzed, Phrosos goes around riding a cart or pulls himself around by his arms, with his lifeless legs dragging behind. When the wife comes back with a baby, he finds the wife dead - so Phrosos, bitter and full of hate, sets out for Africa to seek his revenge on Crane and the baby daughter. Eighteen years pass - Phrosos, now known as "Dead-Legs", uses his magic to trick the natives with fake "voodoo" so he can steal elephant tusks from Crane, now a trader. Meanwhile, he has the daughter being raised in a Zanzibar brothel and he sends for her to come to him - all part of his evil plan. He now holds the poor girl captive and treats her like dirt
doing such things to her as making her eat on the floor and giving
all her clothes to the natives. Twists and turns to follow.
This is an absorbing, well done film - odd, creepy, and sad too. Chaney is really excellent in this - he gets such a look of evil and hate on his expressive face and is just SO good at making his legs look completely lifeless. Mary Nolan, who plays the daughter, spends most of the film looking around her with a complete look of disgust (and who can blame her!) - but her facial expressions are slightly over the top sometimes. Warner Baxter is handsome here playing Doc, Chaney's sidekick in Africa who falls in love with the girl. Very good.
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