The Penalty (1920) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Penalty (1920)

The Penalty (1920)

The Penalty




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Penalty Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

Among Lon Chaney's early villainous roles was Blizzard, the criminal mastermind of this melodrama set in San Francisco's Barbary Coast neighborhood. As a young man, Blizzard was the victim of an auto accident, and a quack doctor had mistakenly ordered his legs amputated at the knees. He grows up an embittered, violent man interested only in taking revenge on the rich and powerful, especially the doctor who maimed him and is still practicing. Rose, a secret service agent (Ethel Grey Terry), is dispatched to infiltrate Blizzard's gang, but she falls under his spell and becomes his mistress. Blizzard is himself attracted to a lovely artist who wants to paint his portrait, but she resists his advances. Ultimately, Blizzard's plan to have another man's legs grafted onto his own is thwarted when it's discovered that the long-ago accident had caused a reversible brain injury which turned him to the dark side. Rather than perform the operation on his legs, the doctor repairs Blizzard's brain, and Blizzard awakens to find that he is no longer interested in a life of crime. He marries Rose, but his criminal associates decide he must pay the ultimate penalty for his knowledge of their activities.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery & Suspense, Classics
Directed By: ,
Written By: Charles Kenyon, Gouveneur Morris, Philip Lonergan
In Theaters:
On DVD: Mar 8, 2005
Samuel Goldwyn Company

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Lon Chaney
as Blizzard
Doris Pawn
as Barbary Nell
Jim Mason
as Frisco Pete
Claire Adams
as Barbara
Milton Ross
as Lichtenstein
Charles Clary
as Dr. Ferris
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Penalty

Critic Reviews for The Penalty

All Critics (7) | Top Critics (2)

Full Review… | March 25, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

November 11, 2002
AV Club
Top Critic

Demonstrates the wonder and value of pre-digital moviemmaking: For all intents and purposes, Chaney *is* a legless man in 'The Penalty,' and the film is a documentary record of this impersonation.

Full Review… | November 16, 2012
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

Famous scene of Chaney straightening twisted legs is real plus.

May 9, 2007

Somewhat interesting for historical reasons and for Chaney's memorable performance.

Full Review… | October 16, 2006
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

The Penalty is by far one of the greatest unsung achievements of über-legend Lon Chaney

July 18, 2003
Blunt Review

Audience Reviews for The Penalty


This movie was very predictable, but Cheney does a great job as usual in his strange role of a criminal kingpin without legs. The romantic part of it was good too, although sometimes unintentionally funny. But then the ending was really very sad. Overall it was pretty good, but it could have been better.

Aj V

Super Reviewer

Lon Chaney is truly amazing (isn't he always?) as a double amputee and the visual design of the film is simply wonderful... but the script has a severely sluggish pace with long periods where nothing happens to further the story, and the resolution is ludicrous and seems to come out of nowhere, making it anti-climatic. I recommend this to lovers of silent film as Chaney is a true wonder to behold, but others may wish to move along and view something else.

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