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The Penalty


4.7 out of 5 stars (33) IMDb 7.5/10

In a role that established him as one of the most dynamically terrifying performers of the silent screen, Lon Chaney stars in THE PENALTY, from director Wallace Worsley. When an incompetent doctor amputates the legs of a young boy, he has no idea that the youth will grow up to be the immoral and embittered Blizzard, a criminal mastermind who orchestrates a bizarre and heinous plot to avenge himself upon his malefactor. The Penalty teems with irony and sexual menace as Blizzard befriends the surgeon's daughter and serves as an artist's model for her sculptural rendition of Satan, waiting for his moment to show the depth of his demonic desires.

Charles Clary, Doris Pawn
1 hour, 29 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Drama, Thriller, Horror
Director Wallace Worsley
Starring Charles Clary, Doris Pawn
Supporting actors Jim Mason, Lon Chaney, Milton Ross, Ethel Grey Terry, Kenneth Harlan, Claire Adams, Montgomery Carlyle, Cesare Gravina, Lee Phelps, Madlaine Traverse, Edouard Trebaol, Clarence Wilson
Studio Kino International
MPAA rating NR (Not Rated)
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robin Simmons VINE VOICE on September 7, 2001
Format: DVD
Kino on Video has carved a niche for themselves with their fine digital transfers of art, foreign and classic silent films. Four of the towering icons of early cinema were Lon Chaney, John Barrymore, Douglas Fairbanks and Rudolph Valentino. Now, each of these stars has a seminal film freshly available for a new generation to discover and enjoy on DVD (along with a generous sampling of choice supplemental material).
A few years before his death, I got to know Allan Dwan, the legendary film pioneer and director of over 400 features films, who by then was well into his 90s. After a special screening of a his 1922 "Robin Hood," a spectacular comic epic adventure starring Douglas Fairbanks, Dwan told me how he discovered Lon Chaney. "I was at Universal and picked up a new prop man," he said. "Suddenly, every day after work, I noticed a stranger leaving the set where we were shooting. A stranger with a missing leg, or eye, or odd nose, hair or teeth. It turned out to be Chaney in his home-made makeup effects. I said, 'You wanna be in front of the camera?' and began putting him in small parts where he was immediately noticed -- not so much for his makeup, but rather his personality. So I took the tip and featured him. He had that mysterious hidden thing that certain people have. He was a star from the very beginning."
When I saw "PENALTY" I understood what Dwan meant about Chaney's sheer force of personalty. Shot in 1920, this Wallace Worsley ("Hunchback of Notre Dame") directed thriller features Chaney as Blizzard, an embittered double amputee and criminal mastermind out to avenge the incompetent doctor who cut off his legs when he was a boy. Blizzard befriends the surgeon's artist daughter and serves as model for her sculpture of Satan.
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Format: DVD
Like many other movie fans, my only view of Lon Chaney was in The Phantom of the Opera. I enjoyed it a lot and decided to try some of his other work. The Penalty sounded the most interesting since Chaney's legendary makeup skills are used not on his face but on his legs. He is nothing short of amazing in his role as a double amputee/crime lord. Indeed, this is one of those movies that is carried by an actor's charisma.
Unfortunately, the supporting cast is not nearly as fascinating as Blizzard. With the exception of Rose, they are just the standard gangster film characters. (The eager young man, the innocent young girl, the dogged investigater) Whenever Blizzard is onscreen, the movie really works and the viewer misses him when he is not there. Chaney takes a completely horrid character and makes him almost likable. It's no wonder this was the movie that made Chaney a real star.
The plot involves Chaney's character, Blizzard, seeking revenge on the imcompetant doctor who amputated Blizzard's legs at the beginning of the movie. Meanwhile, the police are investigating Blizzard, hoping to bring down his entire gang.
The print is nice enough, quite watchable. The soundtrack is another matter. It consists of NIN sounding loops and drumbeats. Some silent movie fans are purists when it comes to music and some are not. I am in the middle. I would have preferred a more traditional soundtrack (the clangs and bangs are distracting sometimes) but it did not wholly hamper my enjoyment of the film. I just want to give a warning to any traditionalists.
The DVD boasts a suprising amount of extras for a silent film. A 1914 western short starring Chaney. I enjoyed seeing how little a western changed between the teens and the fifties! Also,and a brief but well-done tour of Chaney's makeup case.
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Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
Other than "The Phantom of The Opera" this is Chaneys' best work. I have viewed most Lon Chaney films (All that are in print). I must admit, some of his films are corny, one hour melodramas,that I would only recommend to dedicated fans. However, this story, the acting, and the "Kino" soundtrack, will make this one to remember. Better than "The Hunchback" (and that's saying a lot)
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Format: DVD
The Penalty is a superb Lon Chaney film. It has a really sinister, creepy atmosphere and a central performance from `The Man of a Thousand Faces' which is amongst his best. Chaney, in the role of Blizzard, does not use elaborate face makeup, although his face still takes on an incredible number of varied expressions. What makes his performance so memorable is that he is able to convincingly play the part of someone who has had both legs amputated above the knee. Chaney is totally believable as he moves around on crutches. He shows an incredible strength in using only his arms to climb ladders and ropes. Chaney's performance is not merely a physical tour-de-force. His portrayal of the bitter criminal mastermind does not descend into caricature. The viewer sympathises with him even as his violent actions make him repellent.
The story of The Penalty is lurid to say the least and at times rather far fetched. It is basically a story of Blizzard seeking revenge for the unnecessary amputation of his legs as a child. This revenge involves an elaborate plot to trap the doctor responsible for his plight. Alongside this revenge plot Blizzard plans to take over the city of San Francisco using `Reds' to fight the police while his gang robs the banks and jewellery stores. The story is far from plausible, but stories of criminal masterminds rarely are. It is however hugely enjoyable, exciting and also at times quite shockingly violent for a silent movie.
The print used for the Kino DVD is very good. It is nicely colour tinted and is clear and sharp. The score, composed by Michael Polher, is modern in style and takes a bit of getting used to. It has a thumping beat for large parts of the film, which can be a bit annoying, but on the whole the score fits in quite well with the mood of the film.
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