Long before teams of technicians used computers to bring monsters and superheroes to the screen, one man equipped with little more than a makeup kit and a remarkable acting talent dazzled moviegoers with his ability to tra... more »nsform himself into all manner of men, monsters and outcasts. That man was Lon Chaney. This 2-Disc Chaney celebration includes three of his major works. The Ace of Hearts, - a tale of murderous intrigue, Laugh, Clown, Laugh - Chaney as a love-smitten circus clown, and The Unknown - where Chaney is a armless knife thrower. These are in their most complete surviving versions. Narrated by Kenneth Branagh, Turner Classic Movies' compelling documentary Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces explores Chaney's diverse career and very private personal life. They are a few of this genius's thousand faces - faces that continue to amaze and entertain« less
An Ideal Introduction To "The Man Of A Thousand Faces".
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 11/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those of you who only know Lon Chaney as The Phantom or Quasimodo and for those who don't know him at all, this collection is the ideal introduction to one of the most gifted artists to ever step in front of a camera. Start first with the British documentary on Chaney narrated by Kenneth Brannagh to give yourself some background.
The first movie to watch is LAUGH CLOWN LAUGH (reportedly Chaney's favorite among his films) which ably demonstrates his ability to convey deeply felt emotions by the use of his body language and without heavy make-up although he does wear clown make-up at the end. Also the 15 year old Loretta Young is remarkable in her feature film debut. Follow that with THE ACE OF HEARTS which is the weakest of the three but still a pretty good film that allows Chaney the opportunity to shine in a fascinating storyline that is still of interest today. Save Tod Browning's THE UNKNOWN for last as it is truly a one of a kind film that will stay with you long after it's over. Chaney plays an armless knife thrower who isn't really armless while a young Joan Crawford has a phobia about being touched. Even more bizarre than it sounds with vivid performances and an astonishing visual composition. Each movie is taken from the best available source material and comes with a newly recorded score composed specifically for each film. View the other supplements whenever you choose to get a fully rounded picture of this incredible talent.
All in all a remarkable set at a good price. Like the PHANTOM and METROPOLIS DVD's released earlier this year, this is how it should be done. Hopefully Turner Classic Movies can now turn their attention to the other classic M-G-M silents in their library (BEN HUR, GREED, THE BIG PARADE, THE WIND) and release them as well. For the next deluxe package how about "The Greta Garbo Collection". Thanks to efforts like this, the art of the silent film is alive and well and being passed on to a new generation of film lovers."
Laugh, Clown, Laugh....Even though your heart is breaking
Brad Baker | Atherton, Ca United States | 11/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Warner Home Video has just released the 2-disc DVD "Lon Chaney Collection"; 3 complete films, scene selections, photo galleries, audio commentaries by Michael Blake, and an intimate Chaney documentary. The first film is Goldwyn Pictures' 1921 "Ace of Hearts", with Chaney at the center of a vigilante secret society. The second movie is MGM's macabre 1927 masterpiece "The Unknown", directed by Tod Browning. Chaney stars as a deranged carnival knife-thrower who sacrifices his human limbs to enter the arms of the young girl he loves. Co-starring is 23-year-old Joan Crawford. "The Unknown" was thought to be a lost film for many years. In the early 1970's, Cinematheque Francaise discovered metal cans containing unidentified reels of film. The canisters were marked "L'Inconnu", French for "Unknown". The third is MGM's 1928 "Laugh, Clown, Laugh", a mesmerizing love story with Chaney as Tito, a jovial circus performer. Tito finds a young baby girl by the river's edge(abandoned by her parents), and adopts the tiny waif as his own. This begins his life-long love of the girl, then the woman, known simply as Simonetta. Chaney's anguished portrait of the aging clown, transfixed by a lovely young woman, is charismatic and eloquent. Simonetta is played by an enchanting 15-year-old Loretta Young. "Laugh, Clown, Laugh" has never been released on video or DVD before. It was first seen on TV in 2002 on TCM cable. If you have never seen this film, I envy the pleasure you are about to enjoy. You also receive the photo gallery/continuity-script recreation of 1927's "London After Midnight". After 1930, the negative and print of "London After Midnight" was stored away in vault 7 at MGM. The print, still in good shape, was viewed along with Tod Browning's sound re-make, "Mark of the Vampire", in 1935. The last known record of the film was in a note in the studio files in 1955. Twenty years later, a fire in vault 7, caused by ignition of improperly stored nitrate film, destroyed the last known print and original negative. "London After Midnight" is the most famous "lost film" of all time. Born into poverty, the object of ridicule(his parents were deaf and dumb), Lon Chaney perservered. Juggling low-paying jobs and a new son, his first wife attempted suicide in 1913. The scandal collapsed Chaney's theater career, and he started over in the fledging L.A. movie business. Chaney would eventually triumph, transforming misfortune into a series of radiant, elegant silent film roles. In 1930, Chaney signed for his first sound movie, unaware that it would prove to be his last. Already afflicted with the lung cancer that would kill him, he starred in "The Unholy Three". Chaney finally speaks to his adoring fans. Chaney portrays a convicted jewel thief, and in the final reel, says goodbye to his girl. He cracks a joke. Suddenly the girl cannot control her joy. Should she laugh or cry? Chaney reminds her: "Why don't you do a little bit of both? You know the gag. That's all there is to life. Just a little laugh, a little tear...""
When was Lon NOT great?
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 09/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Contained in this wonderful collection are the films 'The Ace of Hearts' (1921), 'The Unknown' (1927), and 'Laugh, Clown, Laugh' (1928), together with an awesome documentary about Lon's life and career (with ample film clips), a 40-minute stills and intertitle recreation of 'London After Midnight' (1927), audio commentaries by Michael Blake, Lon Chaney's definitive biographer, photo galleries, introductions to the films by TCM host Robert Osbourne, and a featurette on the composers who have won TCM's now-annual Young Film Composers contest. Two of those silents that were selected to have new scores written for them by the winners were 'The Ace of Hearts' and 'Laugh, Clown, Laugh.'
'The Ace of Hearts' was the first of Lon's films I ever saw, and even though it's not really the height of greatness, it did make me into a big fan. The origins and purpose of this secret society which Lon belongs to are never really explained (we just have a vague idea of their purpose), and the plot was also a bit of a mystery. However, as curious and under-par though this film might be, Lon totally steals the show. He just *looked* like an actor, and lived up to all of the great things I'd heard about what a wonderful actor he was. I was really impressed by his body language and facial expressions, and how he just inspired such sympathy in the audience, wanting him to be the one to get the girl (the beautiful Leatrice Joy) and to have a happy ending.
'The Unknown' is bizarre, to say the least. It was directed by Tod Browning, his favorite director, who did a lot of macabre disturbing unconventional pictures like this. It also seems as though there's some footage missing from this one, at only about 50 minutes long, added to the fact that it was only available in murky 9.5 mm black market copies until 1968, when it was discovered, along with some other films, in France, in cans labeled "l'inconnu" (i.e., "unknown"). What remains is really good, however. Alonzo is a supposedly armless knife thrower in love with his beautiful assistant Nanon (Joan Crawford), who is afraid and distrustful of men with arms. We're never really told just why she's so afraid of a man who could put his arms around her, but one suspects that she was raped or abused in the past. However, as we come to find out, Alonzo does have his arms, only he's hiding them so that Nanon will love and trust him. He's also hiding them because he has double thumbs, and the police are looking for him for some crimes he's committed, knowing only that it was a man with the same condition. Things take a turn for the worst when Nanon sees him from the back strangling her father (though luckily she doesn't see his face), and the life-altering decision Alonzo makes is not only incredibly disturbing, unthinkable, and creepy, but also leaves the door open for the handsome strong man in their travelling circus, Malabar (Norman Kerry), to move in on Nanon, who has always pushed away his romantic overtures. When Alonzo comes back to the circus after taking care of his bizarre business, things get even creepier. Once again Lon makes you feel sympathy for this strange character, someone you'd ordinarily feel repulsed and horrified by.
'Laugh, Clown, Laugh' is a truly touching and heartbreaking film, and came out in the last really great year for silents, by which time the artform had truly reached its peak and been beautifully perfected. It is rather disturbing how Lon's character, Tito the clown, develops romantic feelings for Simonetta (Loretta Young) when she becomes a young woman, even though he and his partner Simon have been raising her as practically their own daughter since they found her abandoned when she was just a toddler, but you get the feeling that deep down he realises how wrong and foolish these feelings are, not only because she's like a daughter to him, but also because he's an older man, and doesn't have anything to promise her the way her much younger and more handsome suitor Count Luigi (Nils Asther) does. A famous story about the filming of this movie is that the director, Herbert Brenon, was often quite rude and mean to Loretta Young, who was just a teenager at the time and barely starting her career. However, he was always civil to her whenever Lon was around, and after he picked up on this, he was with her constantly, even when they were shooting scenes he didn't appear in, guiding, directing, and mentoring her, and protecting her from the abusive director.
The stills recreation of 'London After Midnight' is alright, but doesn't really deliver a big punch due to the lack of actual film footage that might speed the story along better or make it seem more compelling and interesting. If only there had been even some surviving footage to pad out the stills with, as in the recreations of 'The Young Rajah' and the four-hour version of 'Greed.' This film has long been among the holy grail of missing silents, ever since the last known surviving print was destroyed by a vault fire at MGM in 1967. However, people who saw it in its original run and even as "recently" as the Fifties or Sixties have usually been quoted as saying that it wasn't all that great, and that the people so desperate to find it would probably feel the same way if they had had a chance to see it. Perhaps this is a classic case of something being elevated to high status due to the reputations of Chaney and Browning and the fact that it's lost and no longer able to be judged on its true merits. As sad as it is that an overwhelming amount of silents were lost, both within their own lifetimes and in the ensuing decades, not all lost films were great works of art that modern-day people would be really impressed by and enamoured of. Just like with modern-day movies, most silents too were just fun lightweight date movies or something for a rainy day, not epic timeless classic masterpieces or movies that are so good you want to watch them over and over again.
Overall, this is a great collection. Lon was great in every film he was in, even lacklustre efforts. His mere presence could elevate something that would have appeared only ordinary or even bad had some other actor been in it. His growing up with Deaf-mute parents played a big part in how he was so skilled at pantomimic acting, in making the viewer feel sympathy and empathy with characters whom they ordinarily would have walked on by or spat on in disgust or fear, and the stories about how he had keen empathy in real life for people who were different are also legendary. This small sampling of films is compelling proof of just why he was one of the 20th century's greatest male film actors."
Lon Chaney at MGM
Anyechka | 09/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lon Chaney clearly thrived at the MGM studios and this DVD is a fine selection of 3 of his films. The Ace of Hearts was one of his four films made for Goldwyn Pictures (sadly, only this and The Penalty have survived). Laugh Clown Laugh and The Unknown are two of his finest films at Metro-Goldwyn Mayer. Both feature outstanding performances by Chaney.This is the first set of Chaney silents released by Warner Home Video. Not mentioned, it also features the TV reconstruction of London After Midnight. If you're a silent film fan or just someone who loves movies, this set is a must-have.Extras include a documentary on Lon Chaney by Kevin Brownlow and commentaries for the 3 main films by Chaney historian Michael F. Blake."
BUY IT !!!!
Michael J. Sackmary | Austin, TX United States | 03/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Are you wondering if this disk is worth $40? So was I. This collection is GREAT. You get two disks. There are three actual movies, one biography and one very special treat. Thios makes a total of five features for a mere $40. The lost film London After Midnight was a high-grossing popular film of the silent era. There are no known copies of the actual film itslef. BUT this collection contains a reconstruction of the film made from still photos. It's a slideshow with occasional title cards. All in all, if you like Lon Chaney, get this set. All of the films are clean, and very very very clear."