Thursday, April 23, 2009

Blogpost # 100 - What a penalty!

Yes, I just saw that this is my 100th post on this classic film blog! And what could be more suiting than dedicating it to a Lon Chaney masterpiece like The Penalty (1920)?

The Penalty
Director: Wallace Worsley
USA 1920
90 min

See the film on YouTube: link

Lon Chaney appears in his first starring role as the double amputee Blizzard, who had his both legs unneccessarily amputated after a car accident as a boy. The incompetent Dr. Ferris (Charles Clary) has since then become a respectable doctor, while Blizzard has grown up to be the king of the underworld longing and planning for revenge.

This film is fantastic, and works as well today as it did almost 90 years ago. The plot has many interesting levels, the sexual and sadistic undertones are significant but yet only a little more than indicated. And the Hollywood kisses? Oh, they are there, but they are not for weak girls! Chaney's brutal kisses send shivers up and down my spine.

Towards the end there's a pretty interesting logical twist of the story. Some people have expressed disappointment of it, but I will not. It fixates the story to reality, and takes no glamour away from Chaney's peaks of evil. At least I am satisfied!

The version on YouTube has a new, modern soundtrack to it. It's freaky and disturbing in many ways, but I still think it works. This film itself is dark, freaky and disturbing - and a masterpiece. Chaney really set the level for upcoming characters of his. After The Penalty he made more films with Wallace Worsley - The Ace of Hearts (1921), A Blind Bargain (1922) and the legendary film adaption of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923).

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Chaney refused any special effects offered to make him look like and amputee. He strapped his legs back in a painful position and walked on his kness on self-constructed leather harnesses. The pain was so intense that he only could stand it for a little more than ten minutes of shooting at a time. But still - the result is more convincing than any modern special effects ever could achieve!

Originally, there were actually a footage of Lon Chaney walking down some stairs (to show the audience that he wasn't a real amputee) put onto the end of the film, but that sequence was removed for the 1926 release and was lost after that.

It is amazing that you can be able to see masterpieces like The Penalty on a popular site like YouTube. I love seeing that cultural growth is encouraged, and I hope desperately that no medieval film corporation sues them for copyright infringement or anything like it.

I'll share the first part (1/10) of the film with you here:


Blizzard: Don't grieve, dear - death interests me.

Barbara Ferris: Why do you live in the underworld?
Blizzard: When Satan fell from Heaven he looked for power in Hell.

Lichtenstein: It's always Blizzard - that cripple from Hell.

[To his working women]
Blizzard: By the way, Barbary Nell, who strayed from us, now sleeps upon a marble slab -- [laughing] -- in the morgue."


Kate Gabrielle said...

Happy 100 posts Lolita!! yay!

Christopher said...

One of Chaney's very best..I guess I'm amongst the few that likes the music score on the Kino dvd release..I particularly like the scores of the Young Composer's Competiton winners for the TCM Chaney releases..They give these things a new artistic spin that really compliments the picture..

Elizabeth said...

Wow! 100 posts?! I'm only on 43!

Lolita said...

Kate Garbielle:
Thank you! Weee!

I didn't mind it neither. As I said, they underline the dark and bizarre elements of the film.

Haha, I'm too eager to get everything in my head put into letters on my blog!

Anonymous said...

...please where can I buy a unicorn?

Anonymous said...

...please where can I buy a unicorn?

Anonymous said...

Chaney was one of the greatest actors of any generation. This is his greatest and most disturbing role. The evil and anger that he portrays is one of the most haunting performances ever on film.