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The Penalty (1920)

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

Writers:

Gouverneur Morris (by), Gouverneur Morris (adapted from his famous novel) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Charles Clary ... Dr. Ferris
Doris Pawn ... Barbary Nell
Jim Mason ... Frisco Pete (as James Mason)
Lon Chaney ... Blizzard
Milton Ross Milton Ross ... Lichtenstein
Ethel Grey Terry ... Rose
Kenneth Harlan ... Dr. Wilmot Allen
Claire Adams ... Barbara Ferris
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Storyline

Blizzard, deranged from a childhood operation in which both his legs were perhaps needlessly amputated after an accident, becomes a vicious criminal, and eventually mob leader of the San Francisco underworld. Out for revenge against the surgeon who performed his operation, he undergoes brain surgery which has a chance of altering his anti-social behavior. Written by Doug Sederberg <vornoff@sonic.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A picture that will set the whole town talking. See more »


Certificate:

Passed

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

3 June 1921 (Mexico) See more »

Also Known As:

Bűntetés See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$88,868 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

(2004 alternate)

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In Blizzard's vision of the future sack of San Francisco, he is seen giving orders to his henchmen standing on his restored legs. See more »

Quotes

Lichtenstein: I could get him for theft, arson, murder - - but his criminal machine would still grind on. Through the Master I must reach his slaves - the underground powers of the Reds. He's gathered up his dance hall girls and he's put them to work in his house - making hats - thousands of hats. I must know why!
See more »

Crazy Credits

There is no cast list, but the 8 main actors and their character names are credited in the inter-titles as each appear in the film. See more »

Alternate Versions

In 2004, Turner Classic Movies exhibited a version on television with a music score, but no details were given. It ran 90 minutes. See more »

Connections

Featured in Kingdom of Shadows (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Triumph For Mr. Chaney
13 May 2004 | by Ron OliverSee all my reviews

A master criminal pays THE PENALTY for a life full of evil.

Lon Chaney became a major movie star with his role in this shocker. Already regarded as a fine actor for his performances in lesser films, he now proved he was quite willing to go far beyond mere makeup for the enhancement of his screen persona. His dedication to his craft, coupled with an outsized talent, were to make Chaney one of the foremost film actors of the 1920's.

Here Chaney plays a legless mobster who plots terrible revenge upon the doctor who maimed him (his plan to sack San Francisco of its wealth is almost incidental.) In order to create the illusion of being a paraplegic, Chaney bound his legs back and encased them in stumps. He is able to hop about with great alacrity using crutches, but he suffered intense pain during the filming and could only abide the prosthetics for short periods of time.

As remarkable as what he's able to achieve on his knees might be, it is the face of Chaney which is equally memorable here. The fact that he's able to model for a bust of Satan as part of the plot is no accident. His features take on the visage of pure unadulterated evil. The blood chills to look at him. Chaney the Actor has wordlessly spoken.

The film itself is a pleasantly florid potboiler, with plenty of menace, mayhem and damsels in distress. But it is Chaney who lingers longest in memory's darkest recess...


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