The Penalty (1920)

Article #624 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 11/29/2002
Posting date: 4/24/2003

A double amputee known as Blizzard seeks revenge on the doctor who crippled him for life.

I’m always a little amazed at how well Lon Chaney could act when he was hampered by costumes that must have been incredibly painful. He is such a malicious, malevolent, evil man here that he takes your focus away from the fact that he hobbles around on crutches for the length of the movie. The story itself is only slightly a horror story (basically, the fact that the villain is a double amputee and a certain air of degeneracy in the proceedings) and offers only the slightest whiff of science fiction (basically, part of the plot deals with transplants), so it remains largely marginal. It starts out with a Mabuse-like setup, but it ends up not really delivering in this regard; the ending seems doctored, artificial and pat, and is not very satisfying. This one is primarily of interest for Chaney’s performance.


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