The Penalty (1920)

The Penalty (1920)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Penalty Photos

Movie Info

This picture, based on the novel by Gouverneur Morris, was a tour de force for Lon Chaney, who plays a legless kingpin of the Barbary Coast underworld. When Buzzard (Chaney) was a boy, his legs were amputated by an incompetent doctor; now that he's an adult, his goal is to get revenge on the doctor, to become the ruler of the underworld and to have someone else's legs grafted onto his stumps. But an operation on a blood clot in his brain converts his evil mind to one that wants to do good. Rose (Ethel Grey Terry), the secret service agent who has been keeping tabs on Buzzard, falls in love with him now that he has reformed and marries him. Buzzard's old associates, however, aren't so thrilled with the change and they murder him.
Classics , Drama , Horror , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
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

Critic Reviews for The Penalty

All Critics (5)

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | March 24, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

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)

An essential work in the Lon Chaney canon, this early horror-tinged noir arrives on Blu-ray with an impressive A/V transfer and humble but rewarding set of extras.

Full Review… | October 31, 2012
Slant Magazine

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

Audience Reviews for The Penalty

This movie is an absolute privlidge to watch, not only because its one of the few Lon Chaney films to survive but also one of his greatest performances. In this film he plays the crimelord Blizzard a double amputee out for revenge, after his legs are accidently cut off as a boy during a botched operation. Chaney actually tied his legs behinde him and walked on his knees in these buckets with leather straps so that he would look the part and wouldnt have to rely on trick angles. i mean he just gives each performance his absolute effort and it really shows in this picture. don't be turned away by it being a silent film as its up to par and maybe even better than sound movies today. 5/5

Jacob Lagana
Jacob Lagana

good flick, with interesting portrayals. I felt that each actor tried, with success, to bring their characters to life and be believable. Solid direction and camera work, though the script seemed simplistic - but that was often a hallmark of the silent age. Appropriate ending given the scenes immediately prior.

Christopher Bergan
Christopher Bergan

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
Aj V

Super Reviewer

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