The Penalty - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Penalty Reviews

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March 11, 2017
This movie is an absolute privilege 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 crime lord 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 behind him and walked on his knees in these buckets with leather straps so that he would look the part and wouldn't 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 it's up to par and maybe even better than sound movies today.
5/5
February 18, 2017
Lon Chaney is amazing in this silent film about a legless criminal kingpin. Chaney went to great lengths to hide his legs and fully inhabit the role, and it is a towering performance. the story is predictable but serviceable, but this is a film to watch for the performance. Seek it out!
½ January 31, 2016
Another physically stunning masterpiece by Lon Chaney, arguably the greatest actor of all time. His incredible contortion endured to portray a legless villain is simply beyond our understanding in the present world of CGI and special effects. What Lon Chaney accomplished in his mastercraft should inspire and educate future actors pursuing physically dramatic roles. Chaney's character, Blizzard, stirs empathy within the viewer, simply by his actions despite his evil.

A must for any cinema student or Lon Chaney buff.
½ May 18, 2014
Truly amazing how Chaney transforms physically to appear, more they successfully, as a double leg amputee seeking vengeance for the wrong done to him. One shot of him climbing two handed, pulling up his whole torso, and hidden curled legs, so briskly, to a high peep hole to spy on the doctor's daughter is amazing to watch. The pain he went through for the role is not apparent in the slightest, it cements yet again his mastery of make up and prosthetics to play malformed characters. .. But his characters also exhibit pathos or in this case, the evil that consumes this character via his years or crime and plotting revenge. Chaney, you were a wonder!
May 2, 2014
A wonderful criminal tragedy starring the great Lon Chaney.
February 7, 2013
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.
Super Reviewer
½ November 22, 2011
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.
December 23, 2010
Another outstanding performance from Lon Chaney...even 90 years later, who's still amazing to watch today. A master craftsman in world cinema not only for silent era, undoubtedly for all time.
May 29, 2010
Lon Chaney plays a Barbary Coast criminal mastermind during the early 1900s in director Wallace Worsley‚??s ‚??The Penalty,‚?? an outstanding crime thriller that wraps up its 93 minutes with a surprise ending. The premise alone makes this silent epic worth watching. Moreover, Chaney contrived a leather contraption that allowed him impersonate his handicapped villain without relying on hokey camera angles or trick photography. At the turn of the century, a boy in his early teens has a tragic traffic accident and an inexperienced surgeon; Dr. Ferris (Charles Clary of ‚??A Tale of Two Cities‚??) makes the wrong decision and amputates both of the boy‚??s legs from the knees down. An older physician informs the young doctor that amputation was not necessary. Initially, the doctors thought that they could not be overheard, but the child is able to hear them and he tells his parents that the doctors are lying about his medical condition.

‚??Dangerous Days‚?? scenarist Charles Kenyon adapted Gouverneur Morris‚?? 1920 novel and altered the upbeat, optimistic, happy ending. The title ‚??The Penalty‚?? here refers to the debt that the protagonist must pay for being such a heinous individual. Kenyon, Worsley, and Chaney make sure that Blizzard behaves like a cruel man. At one point, he roughs up one of his female employees when he finds her ability to make a hat less than satisfactory and reprimands her in front of her peers. Incredibly, though we are never shown how he acquired his power, the boy grows up to become an evil mastermind named ‚??Blizzard‚?? and he rules the Barbary Coast underworld. The Federal Police want to bust him, but Blizzard is far too sagacious for them. Eventually, the police send in an undercover operative, Rose (Ethel Grey Terry of ‚??Wild Bill Hickok‚??), to work her way into Blizzard‚??s good graces. The chief of the Federal Police suspects that Blizzard is up to no good, but nobody has been able to gather enough evidence against him to destroy his organization.

One way that Blizzard‚??s kept women can improve their chances of survival is to have an ear for music. When the crippled crime boss comes home, he prefers to sit at his piano and make music. Since he lacks the feet to push the pedals, he relies upon his kept women. Rose turns out to be the best kept woman that Blizzard has ever had and she is allowed to come and go as she pleases. Eventually, Rose discovers a concealed compartment in the fireplace. She notices a loose brick in the section of bricks in front of the fireplace and finds a trip wire in the niche. When she pulls the wire, the entire interior part of the fireplace ascends to reveal a vertical passage. A person can climb down a pair of straps connected by buckles to an underground passage that is wired for lighting and contains a surgeon‚??s operating suite.

Meanwhile, the evil Blizzard is planning to repay the surgeon for his inexcusable act of medical malpractice for removing his legs. The surgeon‚??s adult daughter, Barbara Ferris (Claire Adams of ‚??The Big Parade‚??) is trying to become an artist, but her boyfriend, Ferris's assistant Dr. Allen (Kenneth Harlan of ‚??Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc.‚??) has a low opinion of her aspirations. She wants to try her hand at one last project before she capitulates to her fianc√©‚??s demands. Allen believes that "true women need love, a home, and children." Barbara prints a newspaper advertisement soliciting a model for her sculpture of Satan after the fall and Blizzard instructs his henchmen to turn away all comers. When he shows, Blizzard makes a believer out of the daughter and she begins to model his likeness in clay. While all this is going on, Blizzard has also orchestrated an audacious plan to loot the city of San Francisco by creating a riot in the suburbs that will draw the authorities away from the city so Blizzard‚??s minions can do their bidding. Blizzard‚??s other scheme‚??not quite as audacious, but just as malignant is to fool the old surgeon into cutting off the legs of his daughter‚??s fiance and grafting his legs onto Blizzard‚??s stumps.

‚??The Penalty‚?? qualified as Lon Chaney‚??s first major motion picture and a harbinger of pictures to come. This black & white silent opus is quite hypnotic, especially when Chaney is on screen hobbling around on crutches and leather knee guards.
May 29, 2010
Lon Chaney?s plays a Barbary Coast criminal mastermind during the early 1900s in director Wallace Worsley?s ?The Penalty,? an outstanding crime thriller that wraps up its 93 minutes with a surprise ending. The premise alone makes this silent epic worth watching. Moreover, Chaney contrived a leather contraption that allowed him impersonate his handicapped villain without relying on hokey camera angles or trick photography. At the turn of the century, a boy in his early teens has a tragic traffic accident and an inexperienced surgeon; Dr. Ferris (Charles Clary of ?A Tale of Two Cities?) makes the wrong decision and amputates both of the boy?s legs from the knees down. An older physician informs the young doctor that amputation was not necessary. Initially, the doctors thought that they could not be overheard, but the child is able to hear them and he tells his parents that the doctors are lying about his medical condition.

?Dangerous Days? scenarist Charles Kenyon has adapted Gouverneur Morris? 1920 novel and altered the upbeat, optimistic, happy ending. The title ?The Penalty? here refers to the debt that the protagonist must pay for being such a heinous individual. Kenyon, Worsley, and Chaney make sure that Blizzard behaves like a cruel man. At one point, he roughs up one of his female employees when he finds her ability to make a hat less than satisfactory and reprimands her in front of her peers. Incredibly, though we are never shown how he acquired his power, the boy grows up to become an evil mastermind named ?Blizzard? and he rules the Barbary Coast underworld. The Federal Police want to bust him, but Blizzard is far too sagacious for them. Eventually, the police send in an undercover operative, Rose (Ethel Grey Terry of ?Wild Bill Hickok?), to work her way into Blizzard?s good graces. The chief of the Federal Police suspects that Blizzard is up to no good, but nobody has been able to gather enough evidence against him to destroy his organization.

One way that Blizzard?s kept women can improve their chances of survival is to have an ear for music. When the crippled crime boss comes home, he prefers to sit at his piano and make music. Since he lacks the feet to push the pedals, he relies upon his kept women. Rose turns out to be the best kept woman that Blizzard has ever had and she is allowed to come and go as she pleases. Eventually, Rose discovers a concealed compartment in the fireplace. She notices a loose brick in the section of bricks in front of the fireplace and finds a trip wire in the niche. When she pulls the wire, the entire interior part of the fireplace ascends to reveal a vertical passage. A person can climb down a pair of straps connected by buckles to an underground passage that is wired for lighting and contains a surgeon?s operating suite.

Meanwhile, the evil Blizzard is planning to repay the surgeon for his inexcusable act of medical malpractice for removing his legs. The surgeon?s adult daughter, Barbara Ferris (Claire Adams of ?The Big Parade?) is trying to become an artist, but her boyfriend, Ferris's assistant Dr. Allen (Kenneth Harlan of ?Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc.?) has a low opinion of her aspirations. She wants to try her hand at one last project before she capitulates to her fiancť?s demands. Allen believes that "true women need love, a home, and children." Barbara prints a newspaper advertisement soliciting a model for her sculpture of Satan after the fall and Blizzard instructs his henchmen to turn away all comers. When he shows, Blizzard makes a believer out of the daughter and she begins to model his likeness in clay. While all this is going on, Blizzard has also orchestrated an audacious plan to loot the city of San Francisco by creating a riot in the suburbs that will draw the authorities away from the city so Blizzard?s minions can do their bidding. Blizzard?s other scheme?not quite as audacious, but just as malignant is to fool the old surgeon into cutting off the legs of his daughter?s fiance and grafting his legs onto Blizzard?s stumps.

?The Penalty? qualified as Lon Chaney?s first major motion picture and a harbinger of pictures to come. This black & white silent opus is quite hypnotic, especially when Chaney is on screen hobbling around on crutches and leather knee guards.
April 25, 2010
Lon Chaney is, of course, amazing. When I was watching it I told a few of my friends about what Chaney did. He strapped his calves and thighs tightly together and walked on his knees, with his knees pressed tightly in metal so he could only stand it for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, which is, pretty much, Hardcore.

Other than Chaney, I thought the film had quite a slow pace and not that much of a climax. If you're a fan of Chaney, like myself, or of Silent or Gangster movies, you should definatly check it out, otherwise, it wouldn't be missing any great film achievement.
February 15, 2010
A great performance by Chaney is lost in a film with too many threads that crowd each other out of the story, making it hard to feel engaged.
January 22, 2010
Lon Chaney's performance is fantastic, but this has the worst mindfuck ending I've ever seen in any film.
½ December 11, 2009
C'est un peu difficile d'en parler. L'histoire de ce gars qui est oblig√© de vivre sans jambes suite √† une erreur m√©dicale. Toute sa vie est bas√©e sur la cruaut√©, le mal et l'envie de se venger du m√©decin. Il y a deux ou trois √©l√©ments dans le script qui sont pas mal et qui gardent l'attention. Y a une forme de na√Įvet√© dans le sens o√Ļ la m√©decine en 1920 n'en est pas o√Ļ on en est maintenant et il y a un √©l√©ment dans le script qui use de la m√©decine qui est pour moi totalement ridicule maintenant. En tout cas j'ai du mal √† y croire et √ßa m'a paru comme une facilit√©. Pour le reste ce n'est pas (trop) manich√©en et c'est tant mieux. Sinon, la musique n'est pas d'origine. Elle est sympa mais √ßa n'a rien √† voir avec celle qui fut compos√©e pour le film. Lon Chaney est incroyable et vaut le coup d'oeil √† lui seul.
Super Reviewer
½ October 20, 2009
Lon Chaney is awesome
ElCochran90
Super Reviewer
September 17, 2009
A true horror film. Lon Chaney's acting is just perfectible as the mad man whose legs were unnecessarily amputated since his childhood. A good, creepy silent story set in San Francisco.

77/100
½ May 24, 2009
Lon Chaney is unbelievable! easily one of the greatest actors of all time
September 30, 2008
One of Chaney's earliest efforts, he plays one of his most horrible, evil characters (though, perhaps not as fucked up as his character in The Unknown). He really is scary in this.
September 23, 2008
Lon Chaney excells in yet again as Blizzard, the evil mob boss. Having suffered an accident as a child his legs are uneccesarily amputated and seeks revenge upon an unjust world because of this (it later tanspires that he has been further misdiagnosed as a child) Chaney fully transorms himself in his body language and a convincing perfomance as an amputee. moving himself around with his sticks and arms with a great realism. its a shame that his transformation at the end is so short lived but is still a satisfying conclusion to a great film.
September 16, 2008
Another amazing Lon Chaney classic, with Chaney taking the role as possibly one of the coolest villains in film history, the no-legged mob boss, nicknamed Blizzard, seeking revenge for the unnecessary amputation of his legs after a childhood car accident. He finds the doctor responsible and starts modeling for his amateur sculptor daughter's masterpiece, a bust of Satan after the fall.

While he works his way closer to the daughter, he also puts into motion his elaborate plan to take over the city.

Chaney was a master of his craft and this is probably my third favorite of his films that I've seen. The only problem I had with this one was the godawful score on the Kino disc. I won't deduct any points, though portions of it were rather distracting and didn't really fit the film at all.
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