May 10th, 2012: The Unknown (1927)

What It’s About: Alonzo the Armless (Lon Chaney) is a marksman and knife thrower who performs in a one ring circus in Spain. The target, of his knives and affections, is Nanon (Joan Crawford), the daughter of the circus owner Antonio Zanzi (Nick De Ruiz).  Nanon is afflicted with a very odd phobia-she can not bear the touch of men’s hands. Alonzo feels his condition makes him a perfect match for Nanon, and that the circus strongman, Malabar (Norman Kerry), who also desires Nanon, can not compete. Antonio does not want Alonzo to marry his daughter, so Alonzo (who has many secrets) decides to murder Antonio.  Nothing will go quite as he planned it…

Why Watch it Today?:  Joan Crawford died today in 1977.  Most remember her from her great roles in films like Grand Hotel or Mildred Pierce, or perhaps her campy, late career roles that followed Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, films of ever lower budgets and quality that eventually made her stint as William Castle’s box office grabbing gimmick (Strait-Jacket and I Saw What You Did) look good.  Most seem to forget that she started in the silent era, where her expressive eyes and beautiful face were put to good use.  The Unknown is one of these early roles, an excellent thriller/melodrama that only the legendary combination of writer/director Tod Browning and the body twisting makeup of Lon Chaney could create.

Where to Get It: Netflix (Rental)

No trailer, but a clip from Alonzo and Nanon’s act:

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