The Unknown (1927)

USA, 1927
49m (UK), 61m, 1681.58 metres, 6 reels
35mm film, black and white, 1.33:1

An American horror film directed by Tod Browning.

Plot Summary

The apparently armless knife thrower Alonzo turns out not to be disabled at all and is in fact a murderer. Not knowing this, his assistant Estrellita falls in love with him but, because she has a fear of being embraced in a man’s arms, Alonzo has his arms amputated. Then another circus performer, Malabar, cures Estrellita’s phobia and an enraged Alonzo starts planning his revenge…


Director: Tod Browning
Scenario: Waldemar Young
Titles: Joseph Farnham
Story: Tod Browning
Novel: K by Mary Roberts Rinehart [uncredited]
Director of Photography: M. Gerstad
Editors: Harry Reynolds, Errol Taggart
Wardrobe: Lucia Coulter
Settings: Richard Day, Cedric Gibbons

Lon Chaney (Alonzo the Armless)
Norman Kerry (Malabar the Mighty, circus strongman)
Joan Crawford (Nanon Zanzi)
Nick De Ruiz (Antonio Zanzi, Estrellita’s father)
John George (Cojo, Alonzo’s assistant)
Frank Lanning (Costra)
Louise Emmons [gypsy woman – uncredited]
Billy Seay [the little wolf – uncredited]
John St Polis [surgeon – uncredited]
Polly Moran [landlady – scenes deleted]
Bobbie Mack [gypsy – scenes deleted]

Alternative Titles

Alonzo kädetön – Finnish title
Garras humanas – Spanish title
O Homem Sem Braços – Portugese title
Der Mann ohne Hände – Austrian title
Lo sconosciuto – Italian title
Der Unbekannte – Austrian title

Extracts included in
Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star (2002)
Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces (2000)
Universal Horror (1998)


The Aurum Encyclopedia of Film: Horror (2nd edition) by Phil Hardy (ed) pp.38-39 – credits, review
Reference Guide to Fantastic Films by Walt Lee p.513 – credits
Unsung Horrors by Eric McNaughton & Darrell Buxton (eds) pp.255-257 – illustrated review (by Darrell Buxton)

Other sources
BFI Southbank Guide December 2007 p.8 – illustrated listing