I love Lon Chaney. I love The Penalty, The Unknown, He Who Gets Slapped, The Unholy Three. And I'm jealous that I wasn't in San Fransisco for a screening of The Unknown intro'd by Guy Maddin. There's a transcript of Maddin's remarks at The Evening Class, a blog I just discovered (can't wait to read the interview with Doug Jones, once I'm finished scrolling through all the Chaney stuff). Maddin's remarks are interesting -- not only does he wonderfully compare melodrama to dreams -- "it's true life uninhibited, just like our dreams" -- but because I never thought of Chaney movies as melodrama, always as horror. But these two things can intersect, can't they? And that pure, unrestrained impulse, the dark shadows, the fear and the id, all these all cross-pollinate, don't they? "Little repressed fears and anxieties grow into monstrous terrors in our dreams," says Mr. Maddin, "and our true selves become so uninhibited."
The Evening Class offers an interesting summary of the film, pointing out how the the fear of amputation was very real in a post-WWI era, and offers up for speculation the idea that Joan Crawford's characters fear of hands is due to some sexual abuse (very primordial Freudian dream symbolism there). This summation draws upon an analysis from an essay by Mario DeGiglio-Bellemare, " 'Even a Man Who is Pure in Heart': Filmic Horror, Popular Religion and the Spectral Underside of History" which is apparently "a must-read for anyone trying to understand the horror genre, especially within the context of the 1920s."
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