West of Zanzibar (1928) - Rotten Tomatoes

West of Zanzibar (1928)

West of Zanzibar





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

In this lurid Tod Browning melodrama, boasting a thoroughly creepy performance by Lon Chaney, Chaney plays Phroso, a limehouse magician who is thoroughly in love with his wife Anna (Jacquelin Gadsdon). Also in love with Phroso's wife is ivory-trader Crane (Lionel Barrymore). After a performance, Anna tells Phroso that she is leaving him to go away with Crane to Africa. After Phroso confronts Crane, Crane kicks him down a second-floor landing, crippling him. Months later, Phroso, now known as "Dead Legs" Flint, is now seen to be paralyzed from the chest down, and he gets around by pulling himself forward by his hands. He enters a church where he sees Annie has returned, but she is dead at the altar, leaving her child Maizie, whom Dead Legs assumes to be Crane's child, crying next to her. Hate consumes the soul of Dead Legs, and he swears vengeance on Crane. Years pass. Dead Legs is now lording it over a group of African savages as their god. Maizie (Mary Nolan) has been installed at a brothel in Zanzibar and is now a broken-down alcoholic prostitute. Dead Legs conspires to steal some of Crane's ivory so Crane can appear before Dead Legs, and his revenge can be redeemed. He sends for Maizie and reveals her to Crane. He plans on killing Crane and, due to an African tribal custom that says a man's daughter must be burned at the stake when he dies, have the savages have their way with Maizie. But when Crane arrives and he tells Dead Legs that Maizie is not his daughter but Dead Legs' daughter, Dead Legs is stupefied. Crane leaves and is shot by the savages, his body returned to Dead Legs. Now the bloodthirsty savages want Maizie, so that she can be sacrificed at the stake. Dead Legs, as her father, must now conspire a way to save his daughter from certain death.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Elliott J. Clawson, Waldemar Young
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 24, 2012


Lon Chaney
as Phroso 'Dead-Legs'
Mary Nolan
as Maizie
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for West of Zanzibar

Critic Reviews for West of Zanzibar

All Critics (4) | Top Critics (2)

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

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

Chaney plays a stage magician whose signature trick is to transform a beautiful woman into a skeleton: This is an absolutely brilliant -- and economical -- visual evocation of the relationship between sex and death, the erotic and the morbid...

Full Review… | June 27, 2012
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

What makes this film special is the virtuoso performance of Chaney.

Full Review… | April 30, 2003
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for West of Zanzibar

A bit slow and overly dramatic but undeniably interesting and atmospheric vehicle for the legendary man of the thousand faces, Lon Chaney. well crafted revenge flick.

Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer

A remarkably dark, twisted movie, even by contemporary standards. And of course, it has a fantastic performance by Lon Chaney, playing a maniacal, vengeful Colonel Kurtz type who has paralyzed legs and laboriously drags himself around on his arms. "West of Zanzibar" is not as well-known as other Tod Browning films like "Dracula" and "Freaks," but it's just as powerful. I feel it desperately needed a flashier title -- "West of Zanzibar" suggests some dull National Geographic travelogue, not this sick, gripping melodrama. One warning: In a movie about African natives made in the 1920s, embarrassing racist stereotypes are a given.

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer


Not a word is heard in this silent film, but Lon Chaney is more frightening than any believeable thing I've seen on the screen

Valerie G

Super Reviewer

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