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The Penalty (1920)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Horror | 3 June 1921 (Mexico)
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:

An amazing story of a man with half a body and half a soul. (Print Ad- Aurora daily Star, ((Aurora, Ills.)) 25 May 1921) See more »


Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

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

Show more on IMDbPro »

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

Title Card: In time the man would mangle the soul of the daughter, even as the father had mangled the body of the man.
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

Referenced in Man of a Thousand Faces (1957) See more »

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User Reviews

Creative, Atmospheric Story With a Fine Performance By Lon Chaney
27 July 2004 | by Snow LeopardSee all my reviews

Combining a creative, atmospheric story with a fine performance by Lon Chaney makes "The Penalty" an effective and memorable suspense classic. In one of his earliest leading roles, Chaney is a complete success, both in defining an unusual character and in bringing out everything inside the mind of the sinister "Blizzard". You can already see his determination to make his character visually convincing and flawless, even at the cost of great discomfort. Chaney also shows, as he would so many times, his rare skill in using facial expressions and gestures to show just the right amount of emotion and intensity.

The story is quite interesting in itself, and though it slightly stretches plausibility at times, it is by no means predictable. The brief opening scene of the childhood accident efficiently sets up the background for the strange world dominated by Chaney's vengeful character when he becomes an adult. From there, the well-crafted story keeps you interested and keeps you guessing. The settings are well-chosen, creating an interesting and appropriate atmosphere, with Blizzard's strange hideout and the sculptress's cluttered studio both standing in contrast with the respectable-looking Dr. Ferris and the other characters.

A mere account of the events in the story would not convey the success of the movie in creating a distinctive world in which the characters come to life. This is also a case in which a silent film is probably more effective than a sound film would have been. One of the main flaws in many movies of this type is the vapid dialogue that dissipates the tension through unintentional humor. Here, the title cards need only convey some basic ideas - the rest of it is handled without sound by Chaney, by the rest of the cast, and by the production crew who put everything together so well.


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