Classic Film Guide

Unknown, The (1927)

A Tod Browning directed Lon Chaney silent classic! In this horror drama, Chaney plays a criminal who hides his identity by wrapping up his arms such that he appears as an armless man attraction in a traveling circus. He has a helper (John George), the only other one who knows the truth, that helps him wrap and unwrap his arms. But, he can feed himself and throw knives, his act, with his feet! He falls in love with his assistant (Joan Crawford!), as he exploits her irrational (pseudo-sexual) fear of men with arms. He ends up killing her father (Nick De Ruiz) in a dispute; Crawford witnessed the strangulation, though she only saw the perpetrator in the shadows. To cast off suspicion, Chaney goes away to have his arms surgically removed; he plans to return to Crawford and pursue a more open relationship. However, while he's away, the strongman (Norman Kerry) helps Crawford to overcome her fear, and the two fall in love. When Chaney returns truly armless, he is furious, and enacts a vicious revenge against the strongman. Waldemar Young contributed the scenario to Browning's story; Joseph Farnham did the titles.

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