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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Lon Chaney Back On DVD

The latest releases from the Warner Archive include the works of celebrated Silent Film sensation, Lon Chaney in a special collection of his films from 1921, 1927 and 1928. Back on DVD, the actor known as "Man of a Thousand Faces" is honored here with three of his most popular features, and most memorable transformations.

In The Ace of Hearts (1921) Chaney plays Farallone, one third of a fatal love triangle that develops inside a secret society of vigilante assassins. Sound like a bit of a pot boiler? Well, perhaps, but Chaney subdues any over-wrought plot line with the spectacle of his unprecedented skills of make up and performance. The combination is mesmerizing. And, yes. I'm giving the actor credit for the make up, because he did most of it himself. That, or he collaborated with artists to create those unique personas for which he is so famous.

The Unknown (1927) is a particularly stunning bit of movie magic. Chaney plays Alonzo the Armless, a knife throwing criminal mastermind (with no arms) who loses his heart to Nanon (Joan Crawford), the ringmaster's daughter. Chaney literally performs without the use of his arms, throwing knives with his feet. To achieve the right look for the role the cunning illusionists endured a painful apparatus of his own design in which his arms were strapped down behind his back. Although double jointed, the experience was said to be extremely uncomfortable.

Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928) places Chaney back at the circus as Tito, a circus clown who discovers to his horror, that he has feelings for his young ward played by a ridiculously gorgeous fourteen year-old Loretta Young. Once again, the story rests on a love triangle and of course Lon gets the short end of the stick. His heartache is particularly poignant, as he evokes the devastating pain of a man who can not keep the he has loved for so long in his life. You have not witnessed great emotion in a movie until you have seen Chaney emote. It is palpable.

Bonus materials include London After Midnight, a photo reconstruction of the infamous lost Lon Chaney film. There are also audio commentaries by Chaney biographer Michael F. Blake, photo galleries, and profiles of the TCM Young Composers Competition Winners who created the music for these new releases.

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