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This was fantastic! Campy but seriously twisted. This is the first Chaney film I've seen and he is really great. He has such an expressive face, perfect for silent cinema. The rest of the cast really hold their own as well, particularly Crawford and John George as Cojo.
I didn't even recognize Joan Crawford! It seems that make up and hairdo from the 20's can make a person look completely different.
Five years before Freaks, Tod Browning made another traveling circus potboiler in The Unknown, and it's a strange and beautiful little piece of twist-ending irony. A young Joan Crawford plays a woman torn between three men - her demanding father, the strongman who loves her, and an armless knife-thrower played with increasing intensity by Lon Chaney who is obsessed with her. He's great, and I thought wow, did he really have that foot dexterity, but no, someone else is playing his legs, putting cigarettes in his mouth and so on... I'm still impressed by the dedication and trickery. Crawford's Nanon has a phobia about being held, so this armless man is just about the only man she can stand. As it turns out, Chaney's Alonzo isn't so 'armless after all, and it gets really weird from there, a carnival tale of jealousy, murder and mutilation like no other. It's kind of what O. Henry might have written after a particularly lurid nightmare, and a great precursor to Freaks.
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In 11 official lists
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This movie ranks #34 in IMDb's Horror Top 50
This movie ranks #34 in iCheckMovies's 1920s Top 100
This movie ranks #35 in IMDb's 1920s Top 50
This movie ranks #36 in Silent Era's The Top 300 Silent Era Films
This movie ranks #38 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #71 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #115 in TSZDT's The 1,000 Greatest Horror Films
This movie ranks #185 in Paul Rotha's Silent but Not Forgotten
This movie ranks #592 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time
This movie ranks #853 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films
This movie ranks #1453 in The Criterion Collection