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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Unknown (1927) - Tod Browning


This is a fantastic horror film with a great star sprinkled cast including Joan Crawford and the always entertaining Lon Chaney. It is directed by veteran, Tod Browning. This is widely considered to be one of the greatest of the silents and I would have to agree. It has shades of The Penalty, which also starred Chaney. I really enjoyed this, mostly the great looking sets and amazing plot.

Alonzo the Armless is a fugitive who poses as a circus freak. He pretends to be an arm-less knife thrower by tying his arms down to his sides. Oh, and he has two thumbs on his left hand? Joan Crawford plays his beautiful assistant and love interest, her father is the circus owner. One evening the circus owner notices that Alonzo has arms and he is faking his circus freakish-ness. This creates a problem. The owner wants Alonzo out. But he wont leave with out a fight. 

The acting is really heavy in this movie. However, it doesn't feel too heavy. Lon Chaney does his usual job of holding the audience. His character is chaotic and bad, however, his character is also one to be sympathized with. Usually this kind of thing doesn't drag me in. Lon Chaney works in mysterious ways. Joan Crawford is fantastic as well. Believe me, I have seen a thousand of these movies. This acting is where its at. In this movie and in The Penalty. 

The suspense in the movie is where the scares come from. By today's standards this movie would be a thriller at best. Back in the day, however, this movie could have been on par with something like Halloween or Paranormal Activity. Something like that. Times have changed and this movie isn't compelling for the fear inducing story, it is more compelling for the actors and story telling. None the less, check this movie out. Learn about what was scary in times or yore.

Director: Tod Browning
Country: USA
Style: Dramatic Thriller

Did you know...
Joan Crawford looked at this a turning point for her career. This film has been pieced together from other releases. Found through personal collections or the Black Market. Tod Browning based this on his time spent with a traveling circus. 

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