Retro Bizarro: Lon Chaney’s “The Unknown” (1927)

A quick announcement: from now on, retro bizarro will be posted Monday mornings and Friday mornings each week. That being said, I couldn’t help but share this Friday’s blog with you a little early:

The Unknown: Bizarro Silent Film

The Unknown

Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford star in this 1927 film about an armless knife-thrower whose hobbies include smoking cigarettes and playing guitar with his feet.  Oh yeah. He also likes to murder people, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

So the armless psycho killer is in love with Joan Crawford’s character, a young woman who is, conveniently enough, deathly afraid of arms and hands.

Except it’s not convenient because Lon Chaney’s character actually has arms and hands. In fact, he has an extra finger to boot. Unfortunately, he also likes to choke the shit out of people from time to time, and that extra finger makes him extra easy to identify.

So, instead of just chopping the damned finger off, Lon Chaney binds his arms and does everything with his feet and, barring a few murders, all is well . . . until Crawford decides that maybe she can love Chaney’s character.

Like any red-blooded heterosexual male, he wants to bang this gorgeous young woman. Except, unlike most red-blooded heterosexual males, he wants to bang a gorgeous young woman who thinks he has no arms, but he does have arms, hands, an extra finger and likes to kill people.

The only solution, obviously, is for Mr. Chaney to get his arms chopped off. So he does, and as fate would have it, Joan falls from a deadly height and is caught by the strong man, thereby absolving her fear of arms and hands. Since Lon can’t solve the problem using his preferred method of just choking the bitch out, he decides to sabotage the strong man’s act . . . by having two horses rip his fucking arms off.

In a nutshell: boy meets girl. Boy chops his arms off to be with girl. Girl falls in love with strong man and boy tries to dismember said strong man.

Of course.

Video: in the short video below, Joan Crawford’s character explains why she fears hands, and the dark side of Cheney’s character comes to surface.

What makes it bizarro?

1. six-fingered psycho killer binds his arms to protect his identity.

2. Woman has a pathological fear of arms and hands. So she trusts a man to throw knives at her with his feet.

3, Did I mention this film has circus freaks?

4. Man has arms removed to be with his lover,

. . . I guess it isn’t so much a matter of elements as it is the story as a whole.

Share your thoughts in the comments section. Does this film really qualify as bizarro?


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