The Unknown

The Unknown ★★★★★

Tod Browning’s The Unknown proudly stands as one of the most unusual films of its era in addition to featuring one of Lon Chaney’s most memorable roles.

The actor, widely known as the man of a thousand faces, plays Alonzo, a criminal fugitive who is concealing himself within a travelling circus as an armless knife thrower. He's become infatuated with the beautiful and flirtatious Nanon Zanzi, his performance assistant as well as the daughter of the circus's owner, portrayed in a burgeoning screen performance by Joan Crawford.

Norman Kerry rounds off a love triangle that lies at the heart of the narrative as strongman Malabar the Mighty and all three key performers appear visually motivated by the films wild scenario, which has been adapted loosely from a novel by Mary Roberts Rhinehart. They all manifest their luminary presences to the screen superbly to improve a richly sumptuous movie which serves as an investigation into some ghoulish psychology. 

Unsurprisingly, Browning went on to direct the infamous Freaks just five years later as this comprises amputation and dwarfism with an astounding level of emotional extremity. From it's memorable performances to its well-assembled editing by Harry Reynolds and Errol Taggart, this is a classic silent horror film with some captivating plot twists.

Paul Elliott liked this review