The Penalty (1920) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Penalty1920

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.

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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
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Critic Reviews for The Penalty

All Critics (6)

As a double amputee, Chaney is in top form, the motif of the disenfranchised, the butchered, the mutated, the unloved outstretched in full glory here, once again, to the detriment of his own health.

November 17, 2020 | Full Review…

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.

November 16, 2012 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Famous scene of Chaney straightening twisted legs is real plus.

May 9, 2007 | Rating: 4/5

Somewhat interesting for historical reasons and for Chaney's memorable performance.

October 16, 2006 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…

The Penalty is by far one of the greatest unsung achievements of über-legend Lon Chaney

July 18, 2003 | Rating: 4/4

The reason the film still works instead of surviving merely as a somewhat hysterical anti-communist message film is Lon Chaney's performance.

November 11, 2002 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Penalty


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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