The Lon Chaney Collection: The Ace Of Hearts (1921), Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928), The Unknown (1927), London After Midnight (1927) 2 x DVD9
For certain actors, their fame is in their face—a look, a profile, a particular glint in a sultry pair of bedroom eyes. Talent is usually required to capture the mood and the inner life of a role, but for many in the movie trade, being easy on the eyes has meant stardom and respect. The same can be said for the character actor as well, the distinct seeming individual who immediately comes across as unique and intriguing by merely entering a room, giving a glance, or uttering a single line. This foundational cast member keeps a film from sinking or stinking by merely offering their curious presence. And lest we forget, there is a wealth of wonderful thespians whose powerhouse performing skills more than compensate for a lack of good looks and specialized personas. For them it is easy to merely "become" the individual, to move into their emotional skin and serve up a heart-stopping portrayal that stirs the soul.

In the long history of Hollywood, there was perhaps only one man who encompassed all three of these divergent attributes. He was an attractive, broad-shouldered being with a tough guy image and a tender hidden heart. He was a eccentric entity, essaying people (and…"others") of ethereal strangeness. And he used his face as a canvas, a blank slab of marble from which he would carve some of the most memorable, magical, and monstrous facades ever conceived. Indeed, Lon Chaney was the man of a thousand faces, a make-up wizard so ahead of his time that three quarters of a century later highly skilled technicians still marvel at the visual effects he achieved.

But he was more than a fright mask master. He was a gifted actor, a complex man and an enigmatic personality that, sadly, few modern audiences have had a chance to appreciate. But thanks to Turner Classic Movies, who are releasing three films, a photographic recreation of yet another, and a documentary about the man as part of their new to DVD The Lon Chaney Collection, modern moviegoers can finally learn to appreciate what the silent film buff already knew: In addition to his horror leanings, Lon Chaney was the consummate performer and person.

2 x DVD9 | NTSC 4:3 | 6.78 Gb + 6.58 Gb + 3% rec
Language: English intertitles
Subtitles: Francais, Espanol
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Silent

Directors: Herbert Brenon, Kevin Brownlow, Rick Schmidlin, Tod Browning, Wallace Worsley
Cast: Lon Chaney, Bernard Siegel, Loretta Young, Cissy Fitzgerald, Nils Asther

The Lon Chaney Collection contains three silent films from the later part of Chaney's long career, a still picture recreation of a lost Chaney classic, and a documentary on the famous actor/makeup artist. The plots of each offering are as follows:

The Ace Of Hearts (1921): A strange "brotherhood" meets every night to discuss their agenda and to instigate their "cause." These social anarchists want to destroy men of means and they use clandestine methods, hoping to find a way of eliminating them. With their next victim already selected, the group determines who will murder the so-called "man who has lived too long." Mr. Forrest pulls the symbolic Ace of Hearts. He is chosen to do the deed. Immediately, he professes his love to Lilith, the sole female group member and asks her to marry him. This shocks Lilith and infuriates Mr. Farallone, another member of the group. He has secretly loved this idealistic woman but could never find the proper words or timing to profess it. After their honeymoon evening together, Forrest has doubts. Perhaps love is better than hate. Maybe he won't kill the targeted man. But treason to the group is also a death sentence. So as Forrest walks off to an uncertain fate, Lilith asks Farallone for advice, and protection, in case Forrest does not go through with it. What happens next will forever change the threesome.

Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928): Tito and Simon are a couple of traveling performers crisscrossing Italy. They have a clown act and are immensely popular with the people. One day, Tito finds a little girl abandoned near a lake. He convinces Simon to let him raise her, and in a gesture of friendship, he names her Simonette. The child grows up to be a beautiful woman who catches the eye of the wealthy Count Lavelli. At first she rejects the young cad, but as years pass and Simon and Tito become wealthy and famous as the duo Flik and Flok, Simonette seems to take a shine to the young man. This destroys Tito, as he loves her too. Unrequited and fighting the urge to tell her, Tito sees Lavelli attempt to win Simonette's hand. Soon the couple is engaged, but after discovering how much Tito cares for her, Simonette leaves Lavelli. Although he loves her, Tito just doesn't have the heart to break up the lovers. A tragic end befalls this funnyman who entertained everyone but could never be truly happy.

The Unknown (1927): Alonzo the Armless works as a trick knife thrower in Zanzi's gypsy circus. He is also in love with the boss' daughter, Estrellita. She particularly likes Alonzo because he has no hands, and Estrellita has a psychological fixation about men touching her. That is why she constantly rebuffs the pawing advances of the strong man Malabar. After some bad advice from Alonzo, Estrellita reject Malabar outright. But then Zanzi confronts Alonzo about his own intentions. In a fit of rage, Alonzo kills him. Seems he has arms and hands after all and conceals them purposefully to avoid detection as a wanted criminal. His genetically defective double thumbs would give him away. With Zanzi dead, Alonzo looks after Estrellita and decides to take drastic measures to win her once and for all (as well as to remove any "tell-tale" evidence from his body). He blackmails a doctor to perform a drastic surgery, leaving him a true amputee. But is that what Estrellita really wanted, or is she too changing herself to accommodate a new love?

London After Midnight (1927): A rich manor owner named Roger Balfour is found dead and visiting Professor Burke wants to solve the case. He discovers a suicide note, and after questioning daughter Lucille and Balfour's neighbors Sir James Hamlin and his nephew Arthur Tibbs, he reluctantly concludes that the man took his own life. Five years later, the abandoned Balfour manor suddenly has some strange, creepy new tenants. The servants in Hamlin's adjoining estate think they are vampires. But Burke, back to try and settle the facts one last time, thinks they could have some connection to the crime. As weird events surround the "newly" haunted home, Burke hypnotizes Tibbs to try and get information. He also argues with Hamlin as to who…or what…is living next door. When Lucille goes missing, everyone converges on the Balfour home. The eerie head "vampire" hypnotizes Hamlin and soon the events of that fateful evening are played out for everyone to see.

Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces (2000): Following Chaney's life from his birth to deaf-mute parents (which many point to as the source of this silent expressiveness) to his untimely death of lung cancer at 47, A Thousand Faces tries to explain some of the mystery behind Chaney as a man, an actor, and most importantly, a makeup artist. Talking to a few of his friends and co-stars and using archival clips to highlight his most important performances, this documentary gives us insights into his character and career. Highlights include his multiple collaborations with the twisted Tod Browning, the myth busting description of the actual makeup techniques used to achieve the Hunchback and Phantom of the Opera creature faces, and scenes from "lost" Chaney movies. As a chance to see a long forgotten boogieman work outside the genre for which he is best remembered, this is a wonderful retrospective.

• Commentary by Chaney Biographer Michael F. Blake
• Documentary: "Lon Chaney – A Thousand Faces"
• London After Midnight: Rick Schmidlin's Photo Reconstruction of the Lost 1927 Film
• Photo Galleries
• Memorabilia Galleries
• Introduction by TCM Host Robert Osborne
• Featurette: "Young Film Composers Competition: Vivek Maddala"
• Featurette: "Young Film Composers Competition: H. Scott Salinas"

Download The Lon Chaney Collection: The Ace Of Hearts (1921), Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928), The Unknown (1927), London After Midnight (1927) 2 x DVD9:



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