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September 23, 2018, 03:53:32 AM
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Latest Member: Bennie2817 Forum  |  Movies  |  Good Movies  |  The Unknown (1927) « previous next »
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Author Topic: The Unknown (1927)  (Read 780 times)
Frightening Fanatic of Horrible Cinema

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« on: July 04, 2015, 12:24:49 AM »

Like I've said before, some of the old silent movies can still kick ass and take names.

Lon Chaney plays Alonzo, an armless man who is part of a circus.  His act involves him doing stuff with his feet, like throwing knives at a scantily clad girl (an astonishingly young Joan Crawford!) to cut off what little clothing she wears.  Pretty neat.  Alonzo is in love with Joan, which is fortunate because she has a crippling phobia of men's hands! (!!!)  Talk about a match made in Heaven.  Or maybe not ...

Alonzo has a secret: he really does have arms.  Why does he pretend otherwise?  Because he's a serial robber/murderer, who has left distinct fingerprints and marks on the throats of his victims.  What marks are those?  Why, the marks of his DOUBLE THUMBS! (!!!!!!!!)  Yeah, that's right.  Double freaking thumbs.  So, you see, Alonzo has a pretty good reason to pretend he doesn't have arms, aside from Joan.  The man who runs the circus (who seems to be Joan's father) accidentally discovers Alonzo's secret when he catches him stretching out his arms after a long day of hiding them in a sling.  This means Alonzo has to kill him, of course.

The circus dissolves after that.  Alonzo, his midet sidekick (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), Joan, and the circus strongman end up renting a house together to share expenses.  Alonzo is able to leverage Joan's grief into better success in romancing her, but Alonzo's midget pal gets to thinking.  Joan will discover he has arms sooner or later, right?  And she'll surely notice the DOUBLE THUMBS and connect that to the marks on her father's neck.  Hmm.  There's only one thing to do!  Alonzo will have to visit an old crime doctor friend and have his arms amputated for real! (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

It'll take a while to recover from that kind of surgery, of course.  Long enough for Joan to miss Alonzo so much that she gets over her fear of those icky hands and falls in love with the circus strongman.  (At this point while watching, I said, "oh, no" out loud.)  When Alonzo comes home and realizes what's happened he, not exactly the sanest individual to begin with, is going to go absolutely bats**t insane.  An insane murderer who can throw knives with his feet is still damned dangerous, even without arms.

Watch this movie.  When you get to the part where Joan is happily telling the now for-real armless Alonzo how she got over her phobia and fell in love, don't take your eyes off Lon Chaney's face.  He deserved ALL the acting awards, ever, for the way he twitches his coutenance into that smile.

This movie is an exercise in escalation.  We start with a fake amputee, work our way up through bizarre phobias, to midget sidekicks, polydactyly, murder, to real amputation, and finally to a rage spree by a double amputee who throws knives with his feet -- all of it presented completely straight-faced!  It's incredible, unbelievable.  This is probably the best I've ever seen Lon Chaney, which is really saying something.  Aside from the outstanding scene I mentioned above, he also serves up another of the most chilling things I've ever seen in a movie.  While he's talking to his crime doctor friend, the scene plays out without any intertitles, yet Chaney communicates exactly what's going on with his body language.  The worst thing about it is how calm he is.  He's asking for a double amputation with the same demeanor most people would talk about having a wart removed.  It really sums up Alonzo's character and the entire movie perfectly.

Kneel before Dr. Hell, the ruler of this world!
B-Movie Kraken

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« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2015, 04:13:05 AM »

I agree-for me-this is Chaneys best film-my favorite . It's a seriously warped film.Others would site the Hunchback or the Phantom-but this is my favorite-Chaney really is amazing-his range is astounding.
Chaney Sr-is-and remains for me-one of the best actors of ANY genre-ever!

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