The Unknown (image 1)

Screened as part of NZIFF 2003

The Unknown 1927

Directed by Tod Browning

USA In English
61 minutes B&W

Director

Screenplay

Waldemar Young, Joe Farnham. Based on the story Alonzo the Armless by Todd Browning

Photography

Merritt B. Gerstad

Editors

Harry Reynolds
,
Errol Taggart

With

Lon Chaney
,
Norman Kerry
,
Joan Crawford
,
Nick de Ruiz

Elsewhere

“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 marvellous tale of Alonzo the Armless Wonder (Chaney, of course), who uses his feet to perform a circus knife-throwing act. Only masquerading as armless (wanted by the police for a strangling, he’s concealing the tell-tale evidence of a hand with two thumbs), he falls for pretty Estrellita (Crawford), the bareback rider. But she has a trauma about being touched by men, so he besottenly decides to have his arms amputated, only to find a handsome strongman emerging as a successful rival for her heart… cue for a fiendishly vengeful Grand Guignol finale staged during the strong man’s act. One of the great silent movies, astonishing in its intensity, this is by far the best of the remarkable series of Browning/Chaney collaborations.” — Tom Milne, Time Out 

This lurid double-feature of big-top perversity will be accompanied on the piano by resident virtuoso of the silent-movie keyboard, Tama Karena.