The Penalty

90 minutes

New
Lon Chaney's reputation for behind-the-scenes masochism derives in considerable part from this silent 1920 melodrama in which he plays a double amputee, a role that required him to shoot the entire movie with his calves strapped tightly behind his thighs. Maimed as a teenager by an incompetent surgeon, the protagonist grows to manhood and becomes the criminal mastermind of San Francisco (though how he manages to do that in his compromised state is never explained). A chance for revenge presents itself when the surgeon's daughter, an aspiring sculptor, advertises for a model to pose for a bust of Satan (no stretch there). With all the scowling and fist shaking, this hardly qualifies as Chaney's most subtle performance, but it's certainly among his most memorable. Wallace Worsley directed.

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