7.8/10
6,656
107 user 50 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 »

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A sideshow ventriloquist, midget, and strongman form a conspiracy known as "The Unholy Three" and commit a series of robberies.

Director: Tod Browning
Stars: Lon Chaney, Mae Busch, Matt Moore
Drama | Romance | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A bitter clown endeavors to rescue the young woman he loves from the lecherous count who once betrayed him.

Director: Victor Sjöström
Stars: Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, John Gilbert
Certificate: Passed Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A professional clown and a self-indulgent count learn to help each other with their problems, but then become romantic rivals.

Director: Herbert Brenon
Stars: Lon Chaney, Bernard Siegel, Loretta Young
Certificate: Passed Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A mad, disfigured composer seeks love with a lovely young opera singer.

Directors: Rupert Julian, Lon Chaney, and 2 more credits »
Stars: Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry
Drama | Fantasy | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

On New Year's Eve, the driver of a ghostly carriage forces a drunken man to reflect on his selfish, wasted life.

Director: Victor Sjöström
Stars: Victor Sjöström, Hilda Borgström, Tore Svennberg
The Eagle (1925)
Action | Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

A wanted Russian lieutenant becomes a masked vigilante seeking vengeance upon the man who stole his family's land, only to fall for his charming daughter.

Director: Clarence Brown
Stars: Rudolph Valentino, Vilma Bánky, Louise Dresser
The Crowd (1928)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

The life of a man and woman together in a large, impersonal metropolis through their hopes, struggles and downfalls.

Director: King Vidor
Stars: Eleanor Boardman, James Murray, Bert Roach
The Penalty (1920)
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

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
Stars: Charles Clary, Doris Pawn, Jim Mason
Drama | Romance | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A young American soldier witnesses the horrors of the Great War.

Directors: King Vidor, George W. Hill
Stars: John Gilbert, Renée Adorée, Hobart Bosworth
Freaks (1932)
Drama | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A circus' beautiful trapeze artist agrees to marry the leader of side-show performers, but his deformed friends discover she is only marrying him for his inheritance.

Director: Tod Browning
Stars: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova
Certificate: Passed Drama | Horror | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

In fifteenth century Paris, the brother of the archdeacon plots with the gypsy king to foment a peasant revolt. Meanwhile, a freakish hunchback falls in love with the gypsy queen.

Director: Wallace Worsley
Stars: Lon Chaney, Patsy Ruth Miller, Norman Kerry
Faust (1926)
Drama | Fantasy | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

The demon Mephisto wagers with God that he can corrupt a mortal man's soul.

Director: F.W. Murnau
Stars: Gösta Ekman, Emil Jannings, Camilla Horn
Edit

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
Edit

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 »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

4 June 1927 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Alonzo the Armless See more »

Edit

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 »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

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: There is a time for fear, Nanon... and a time for hate... and a time for love.
See more »

Alternate Versions

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

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
Another Chaney Love Triangle!
18 November 2003 | by bsmith5552See all my reviews

"The Unknown" returns to a theme common in many of Lon Chaney's films, that of a man hopelessly in love with a woman he can never have.

Alonzo, the armless man is performing in a gypsy circus as a sharpshooter/knife thrower working with the lovely Nanon (Joan Crawford) as his assistant. He is of course in love with her. Rounding out the triangle is circus strong man Malabar (Norman Kerry) who is also in love with Nanon. Nanon it seems cannot bear to have a man's hands touch her (Joan Crawford?).

Alonzo is not what he seems to be. It turns out that he is a fugitive on the run and it is revealed that he actually does have arms and has created the armless man to hide a deformity that would identify him as the criminal the police are seeking. And given that Nanon cannot stand for a man to touch her, she repels Malabar's advances and places her trust in Alonzo.

Nanon's father, Zanzi (Nick DeRuiz) wants his daughter to stay away from Alonzo and confronts him on the issue one night. Zanzi discovers Alonzo's secret so Alonzo murders him. Alonzo then re-confirms his intention to marry Nanon. Alonzo's trusted friend Cojo (John George) points out to Alonzo that should he marry Nanon, she would surely discover that he has arms on their wedding night. So, Alonzo sure that Nanon will marry him, arranges to have his arms amputated.

When Alonzo returns from his ordeal he discovers that Nanon has gotten over her fear of men's hands and now plans to marry Malabar. Alonzo devastated, plots his revenge.

Chaney plays an unsympathetic character in this film, so much so that he doesn't evoke the usual audience pity that he had in other films. His scenes as the armless man are outstanding and the things he does with his feet are truly amazing. And he could express so much emotion with just his facial expressions. Crawford was just getting her career into going and went on to a lengthy career spanning over 40 years. Kerry had also appeared with Chaney in both "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923) and "The Phantom of the Opera" (1925). The running time of the film varies depending on your sources. The version I saw runs about 50 minutes. The Citadel Book, "The Films of Joan Crawford" lists it at 65 minutes. IMDb lists running times of 61 and 49 minutes respectively. Despite the short running time it nevertheless presents a complete and riveting story. I would like to know what was cut out though.


11 of 12 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 107 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Watch Now

On IMDb TV, you can catch Hollywood hits and popular TV series at no cost. Select any poster below to play the movie, totally free!

Browse free movies and TV series

Stream Trending TV Series With Prime Video

Explore popular and recently added TV series available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed