7.8/10
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The Unknown (1927)

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 »
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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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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)

Gross USA:

$406,600, 31 December 1927
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (BFI print) | (alternate)

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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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 Alonzo and Cojo are drinking wine, the glass suddenly fills between shots. See more »

Quotes

Nanon Zanzi: You are right, Alonzo... brute strength does not mean everything to all women. Alonzo, all my life men have tried to put their beastly hands on me... to paw over me. I have grown so that I shrink with fear when any man even touches me.
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 Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Very Weird Movie
13 April 2003 | by gbheronSee all my reviews

"The Unknown" has to have one of the strangest plots of any movie I've seen, but I can't describe it without spoiling it. Suffice to say; coming from the mind of Tod Browning who set the story in a traveling carnival, you know it's going to be delving into some heavy weirdness.

"The Unknown" is a silent film starring Lon Chaney, Sr., as carnival star Alonzo the Armless, an expert with gun and knife, who, because of his condition, must use his feet instead of hands. His assistant and unrequited love interest is Nanon, played by a very young and beautiful Joan Crawford. There's a love triangle between these two and the carnival strong man, and oh, what Alonzo won't do to win his ladylove.

My only regret is that I saw the 49-minute version taped off of Turner Classic Movies, and the movie does go by quickly. Short as it is though, it's a weird and entertaining trip.


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