Last night, I got back in touch with an old friend, Tod Browning’s 1927 film The Unknown. I love this film so much. Joan Crawford, in one of her first major roles, plays the daughter of a gypsy circus troupe leader who clearly is suffering from serious PTSD after a lifetime already defining by sexual assault, even if the term is never used. Lon Chaney stars as the only man she trusts, the armless master of throwing knives with his feet. Or is he in fact armless???? He loves her, but how far will he go to win her? Pretty far! Moreover, the other man who loves her is the strongman who wants to take her in his arms. But arms trigger her sexual assault memories!
There’s so much to love here. The whole thing is utterly bonkers in the way that Browning did so well. And no one, and I mean no one, did malevolence like Chaney. Too bad he smoked himself into the grave shortly after the sound era started and his son who starred in endless fourth-rate horror films is better known today.
You can piece together the whole film from various YouTube clips I think, but it’s not all available in one clip. Here is a chunk of it.