Alonzo decides to propose to Nanon. There's only one problem. His arms aren't really missing. Years ago, Alonzo had committed a murder. Since then, he's bound his arms under a corset, learning how to use his feet for everyday tasks.
One bright idea. A little blackmail. Some unethical surgery. And presto! Alonzo's got no arms.
All is looking well for Alonzo. That is, until he finds out that Nanon has fallen for a sideshow strongman. Guess she got over her dislike for arms. Our armless antihero decides that this romance will be short-lived. But something goes wrong when he attempts to sabotage the strongman's stunt. Alonzo jumps in front of a bucking horse, saving his love's life, but sacrificing his own. In the end, the strongman and Nanon live happily ever after.
The film's director, Tod Browning, is best known for his 1932 feature, Freaks. Freaks deserves a post of its own. Browning got his start with D.W. Griffith (Birth of a Nation, Intolerance) and worked from 1917 to 1939. Spanning from silents to talkies, his career is filled with impressive horror films including the Universal Pictures classic, Dracula .
Chaney and Browning made ten films together. In only nine years. In those films, Chaney played gangsters, a ventriloquist, a magician, a hypnotist, and even a character named "Singapore Joe." I haven't seen that one yet, but I'd bet my oversized gong that it's devilishly racist.
The Unknown recently played at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Sadly, I missed that screening but after hearing lots of praise from friends, it moved to the top of my Netflix queue. This is one of the craziest silent films I've seen. If you're a fan of Chaney, Browning, or entertaining movies, then this is one you ought to see.
[This post is part of Cinema Fist's weekly blog-a-thon. This week's topic: black-and-white cinema.]