Stephin Merritt Serenades
Joan Crawford in The Unknown

San Francisco International Film Festival 57

Garras Humanas - The Unknown - 1927 - Tod Browning - Poster010fullStephin Merritt’s ukulele score got mixed reviews but no one could deny the fabulousness of a very young Joan Crawford in Tod Browning’s The Unknown (1927). A silent film, it served as a warm-up for Browning’s better known talkie, Freaks (1932), also set in a carnival (“One of us! One of us!”). Lon Chaney stars as Alonzo, an arm-less performer with a dark past. Crawford is Nanon, his assistant in a knife throwing act. Norman Kerry is Malabar, the strong man who comes between them. Fascinated with carnival life, Browning uses this set-up to create a startling drama. Cinematographer Merritt B. Gerstad also shot Freaks. Continue reading