7.8/10
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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
Norman Kerry ... Malabar
Joan Crawford ... Nanon
Nick De Ruiz Nick De Ruiz ... Zanzi
John George ... Cojo
Frank Lanning ... Costra
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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

For many years this film only existed in murky 9.5mm dupes on the black market. In March 1973, at a screening of this film at George Eastman House, archivist James Card said that Henri Langlois and his staff at the Cinematheque Francais discovered a copy of it in 1968 among other miscellaneous cans of film marked "l'inconnu" (films "unknown" due to missing titles, etc.). See more »

Goofs

When Alonzo and Cojo are drinking wine, the glass suddenly fills between shots. 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.
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Alternate Versions

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

Connections

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

User Reviews

 
Another Browning Masterpiece
22 July 2001 | by wbhickokSee all my reviews

This is a truly spellbinding movie, one of the more bizarre you are likely to see. With Lon Chaney hiding from the law pretending to be an armless circus performer. Joan Crawford is stunningly beautiful as Nanon, the girl he loves. A well done serpentine story that tells more in under an hour than most films made today can tell in two hours. Chaney is the best film actor of all time, he really was the man of a thousand faces. It is a shame that some Browning/Chaney films have been lost forever, but this is one that should be watched by all, it is fantastic.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

None | 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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