Starring Lon Chaney, Ethel Grey Terry and Kenneth Harlan
Here is a picture that is about as cheerful as a hanging - and as interesting. You can't, being an average human and normal as to your emotional reactions, really like "The Penalty" any more than you could enjoy a hanging. But for all its gruesome detail you are quite certain to be interested in it. It at least offers an original story, and heaven and all the angel fans know how scarce they are. Also, it has been screened by that crafty Goldwyn crew with a good sense of he dramatic episode and a free employment of theatrical tricks. Chief of these is the trick of making Lon Chaney "what he ain't" - a perfectly good legless wonder - by bending his legs back at the knees and strapping them against his thighs. You can see that strap arrangement, and you know the long coat conceals the feet, but you are extremely interested in watching him try to fool you. Then there are several sets of trick scenery - a practical fireplace that slides up into the chimney and reveals a secret cavern below, flaring, as it were, with the white hot flames of hell; rope ladders hung below peek-hole windows that the legless one may climb up like a misbegotten spider to take a look around; trap doors through which the investigating youth in search of the heroine is shot down to the villain-infested depths below. Chaney's role is that of a man who has sworn to be revenged upon society in general, and one man in particular, because, as a boy, he was crushed in a traffic jam and had both legs amputated above the knee by a careless surgeon who might have saved them. Legless, but bitter, he becomes one of those "rulers of the underworld" who have only to push a white button to summon an army of cutthroats, dope fiends and fancy lady-fiends. But after getting all his enemies in his power, the wicked one is restored to the world of decent men by an operation which removes a blood clot from his brain, and while he is later killed by one of his old pals, the happy ending is provided by the appearance of Mr. Chaney with legs attached. It is a remarkably good performance this actor gives, and he is capably assisted by Ethel Grey Terry, Kenneth Harlan, Claire Adams and Charles Clary. Wallace Worsley's direction helps the picture a lot. Charles Kenyon and Philip Lonergon wrote the scenario from a Governeur Morris story.
Video source: Kino, Nostalgia, Sinister, Movies Unlimited, Facets
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