7.8/10
6,781
106 user 51 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.

Director:

Tod Browning

Writers:

Tod Browning (story), Waldemar Young (scenario) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Lon Chaney ... Alonzo the Armless
Norman Kerry ... Malabar the Mighty
Joan Crawford ... Nanon Zanzi
Nick De Ruiz Nick De Ruiz ... Antonio Zanzi - Nanon's Father
John George ... Cojo
Frank Lanning ... Costra
Learn more

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Photos

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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 criminal with his arms intact. He and his accomplice, Cojo (a little person), are hiding from the police. 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 criminal the police are searching for. Nanon, the daughter of Zanzi, the circus owner, is the target in his act. Although Alonzo is in love with her, Nanon's father despises him. Malabar, the circus strong man, is attracted to Nanon but she is repulsed by his uninhibited sexual advances and desire to touch and hold her. Her phobia extends to the touch of any man's hand. 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 ... 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:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The only known surviving prints are missing about 14 minutes of footage, mainly from the film's first half and depicting Alonzo's criminal career. See more »

Goofs

When we first meet Alonzo and he is throwing knives with his feet, the shot shows the girl against the board and there are no knives. It cuts to Alonzo throwing and when it goes back to the girl to see the impact there are knives in a silhouette around her. See more »

Quotes

Malabar the Mighty, Circus Strongman: See, Nanon! Eyes that adore you... hands that long to caress you... and strength to protect you! Why do you always draw away from me?
Nanon Zanzi: Why isn't he different from other men! Why doesn't he keep his hands off me?
Nanon Zanzi: Hands! Men's hands! How I hate them!
Nanon Zanzi: Men! The beasts! God would show wisdom if he took the hands from all of them!
Nanon Zanzi: Forgive me, Alonzo... I did not mean you.
Nanon Zanzi: You are the one man I can come to without fear.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The Turner library print has a commissioned score by the Alloy Orchestra and runs 49 minutes. See more »

Connections

Featured in Universal Horror (1998) See more »

User Reviews

 
You can't do a movie like that anymore

One of the strong points of silent movies is that they are naive in the positive meaning of the word: they are creative.

If anyone does a story like that today, one has to choose to do a drama, a thriller or a black comedy. Browning did not have to choose... he just made a very strange film.

Another plus is the use of running time. No fillers. Just 60 minutes of strange ideas. The film is not perfect; and not anyone will enjoy it. But it features a great performance by Lon Chaney and nice photography (incl. creative use of backprojection). And if you like FREAKS, you have to see this one... the background of Browning as a circus assistant really shows up (though I hope, it wasn't that bad).

Sorry, no story details. I don't want to ruin your fun.


11 of 11 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

4 June 1927 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Alonzo the Armless See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$217,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$4,841
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (BFI print) | (DVD)

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

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