Fun Size Review: The Unknown (1927)

Lon Chaney plays a two-thumbed criminal on the lam who poses as an armless knife-thrower to deflect suspicion. (As one does.) He’s in love with Joan Crawford, who is afraid of men’s arms encircling her. Lon knows a surgeon who can… Yes, the movie goes there.

The direction by Tod Browning is suitably twisted but what really sets this film apart from other Chaney vehicles is the fact that the romantic duo of Crawford and Norman Kerry is interesting in its own right.

This film is not for everyone but for those of you who like this kind of thing, this is the kind of thing you like.

How does it end? Hover or tap below for a spoiler.

Lon conspires to murder Kerry, of course, but ends up sacrificing himself to save Crawford when she jumps in to protect her lover.

Read my full-length review here.

If it were a dessert it would be: Candied Pecans with Aleppo. Maybe not for everyone but devotees will enjoy the kick.

Availability: Released as part of the Lon Chaney Collection from TCM. Alas, it is out of print, so snap it up if you find a bargain.


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  1. dbmoviesblog

    This looks very interesting – the title alone attracts me.
    Just a passing question, I noticed the other day that in the past you did Russia in Films blogathon, any chance of doing it again?

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      Thanks! I really enjoyed my Russia blogathon but will likely hold off for now as the topic is so incredibly political. I strive to create a bit of an oasis from politics and I can see a million ways it could turn into a nightmare.

  2. Marie Roget

    Amazing film, and a personal fave that ranks very highly on my Chaney-Browning list! The Unknown has also caused the most comment among unsuspecting friends and family. My favorites:

    “Dear God, why didn’t you warn us?” and “Couldn’t you have saved this one for Halloween?” Heh, heh, heh πŸ˜‰

  3. Scott Lueck

    This film was fascinating, and proves my Theory of Film Love Irony, which states that if you make a life altering, irreversible change to accommodate a quirk of the woman you love, she’s gonna lose that quirk the second you make that change.

    It also comes in handy to show to non-silent fans who think silent horror films are quaint and old fashioned, mainly because it’s terrifying and disturbing without showing a bit of blood and gore.

    And it has Joan Crawford. Nuff said.

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      Yes, in film and in life, don’t cut off your arms to impress your date. It can’t end well.

      Lon Chaney always excelled when he was frustrated– it’s always a little strange to see the few films where he DOES succeed in romance. It just feels… wrong.

  4. Marie Roget

    Oh, TCM, how I love you today (8/3/17)! Lon Chaney gets his due with an all-day film fest including The Unknown, West of Zanzibar, The Unholy Three, Ace of Hearts, The Penalty, Phantom, Tell It to the Marines, and much more!

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