Welcome, children of the night! This Blog is for fans of vintage horror films as well as those who are just beginning to discover the joy of these classic movies. I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Unknown (1927)

The Unknown is another Tod Browning triumph [Dracula, Freaks] that feels way ahead of its time in terms of the way it is both filmed and acted.  If you're not used to watching silent films, this is a good place to start.  The copy of it I viewed was from The Lon Chaney Collection which also includes an excellent documentary on the actor entitled Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces.
The Unknown is a the story of love triangle set among circus performers.  Lon Chaney is Alonso the Armless and is magnificent in the way we expresses emotion on the silent screen.  It's hard to take your eyes off of him.  He did have a stunt double, Peter Desmuki, for some of the scenes where he uses his feet to do some pretty astonishing things.  However, it is shot so well that you don't really notice that it's not him.  Norman Kerry plays Chaney's rival, Malabar the Magnificent, and had also appeared with Chaney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925).  It is a winning combination here as well.  
The object of their affection is a very young Joan Crawford [Whatever Happened to Baby Jane] who held her ground against these two screen legends.  IMDB said that Crawford always considered The Unknown a big turning point for her. She said it wasn't until working with 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.
I won't spoil the plot for you because the film needs to be enjoyed without any spoilers to ruin it.  Browning takes us on a wonderful ride and that contains plenty of suspense, plot twists and emotion to keep us on the edge of our seats for start to finish.  Don't miss this one.
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

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