Magnetic Unknown

Lesser known but freakier than Freaks, Tod Browning's silent horror movie The Unknown stars Lon Chaney in an epic turn as Alonzo the Armless, a deformed knife-thrower who uses his toes to hurl daggers. His lovely assistant Nanon (played by a fresh-faced Joan Crawford) might love the strongman, if not for her crippling aversion to man-arms (bad case of haphephobia). Lucky for us, Alonzo's disfigurement does not put murder, or self-inflicted amputation, beyond him. In a superb and perverse counterpoint, The Unknown is preceded by Sissy Boy Slap Party, Guy Madden's deliriously silly peek at what happens on a sultry island when seven sailors have too much time on their hands. And the Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt makes good on his promise to follow up his 2010 appearance at the Castro Theatre, when he meticulously synced his vocals to a 1917 version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by providing live musical accompaniment for both of tonight's films. As one of a few musicians who can bridge the hideous and hilarious in a single word, he is uniquely qualified.


Tue., May 6, 8 p.m., 2014
 
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