The Unknown

Tod Browning (Freaks, Dracula) was one of the earliest practitioners of cinema-as-neurotic-hallucination. Of the films he made in collaboration with the like-minded Lon Chaney Sr., this 1927 feature is perhaps the strangest and most compelling, though it’s marred by Browning’s usual lack of technical finesse. Chaney stars as a Spanish bandit who hides out from the police by taking a job as an “Armless Wonder” in a traveling carnival. His act is a fake, but when he falls in love with a young woman (Joan Crawford) who can’t tolerate the touch of a man, he arranges for certain alterations.