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 <email@example.com>
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)
Joan Crawford always considered The Unknown (1927) a big turning point for her. She said it wasn't until working with Lon Chaney in this film that she learned the difference between standing in front of a camera and acting in front of a camera. She said that was all due to Chaney and his intense concentration, and after that experience she said she worked much harder to become a better actress. See more »
When Alonzo and Cojo are drinking wine, the glass suddenly fills between shots. See more »
I give this one 8/10 simply for uniqueness. It's not a horror film, but if you can follow and swallow it The Unknown certainly is an unsettling experience. I don't think anyone has spoiled it yet for the unwary so for an explanation of why, the best thing to do is watch it! Suffice to report it's a tale of twisted love and the lengths a man's passion goes to ... to get his hands on the woman. Alonzo didn't understand women however!
Tod Browning sailed close to the edge as usual, and Lon Chaney put in a fine performance as a murderer on the run - I presume he was, from extrapolation of events in the 47 minute TCM UK TV version. Joan Crawford looked very pretty, before Hollywood really got hold of her and uglified her.
There's obviously many bits missing from this print, but by paying attention it's fairly straightforward to understand. I think it's worth it too, especially if you like silent films as I do. The scenes photographed through gauze were striking, but what was that all about?! Overall, different and slightly depressing - is the moral we men are all so desperate when infatuated with a woman?
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