The Unknown

Image for The Unknown

Dir. Tod Browning

USA 1927 | Black & White | 65mins | Cert PG | Drama | Romance

Cast: Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford, Norman Kerry, John George

As with Browning’s Freaks, one wonders how MGM ever got conned into making this resplendent study in morbid psychology. As much a casebook as a horror movie, it tells the truly marvelous tale of Alonzo the Armless Wonder (Chaney of course) who uses his feet to perform a circus knife-throwing act. Only masquerading as armless, he falls for pretty Estrella (Crawford), the bareback rider. But she has a trauma about being touched by men, so he besottedly decides to have his arms amputated, only to find a handsome strongman emerging as a successful rival for her heart.

One of the great silent movies, astonishing in its intensity, this is by far the best of the remarkable series of Browing/Chaney collaborations. - Tom Milne (Time Out Film Guide, 2002) ‘Remarkably perverse’ (Kevin Brownlow/Patrick Stanbury) ‘As pleasurably demented as the wildest excesses of Jodorowski’s Santa Sangre, and no less perverse than Browning’s Freaks’ (Robin Baker) 

NB: This is a silent print. Please ring bfi Bookings on 020 7957 8938 or email bookings.films@bfi.org.uk for advice on projection speed and musical accompaniment.

Available on: 35mm

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