Spoon River Anthology
Edgar Lee Masters

John Cabanis << --- >> Alexander Throckmorton

The Unknown

YE aspiring ones, listen to the story of the unknown
Who lies here with no stone to mark the place.
As a boy reckless and wanton,
Wandering with gun in hand through the forest
Near the mansion of Aaron Hatfield,
I shot a hawk perched on the top
Of a dead tree.
He fell with guttural cry
At my feet, his wing broken.
Then I put him in a cage
Where he lived many days cawing angrily at me
When I offered him food.
Daily I search the realms of Hades
For the soul of the hawk,
That I may offer him the friendship
Of one whom life wounded and caged.

Source: Project Gutenberg

Silent horror movie released in 1927. The file was written and directed by Tod Browning, the director of Dracula with Bela Lugosi. The picture stars Lon Chaney, Sr. as Alonzo the Armless, Norman Kerry as Malarbar the Mighty, and Joan Crawford as Nanon.

Spoilers to follow

The Unknown is a tale of love and the lengths that some will go to get it and the thin line between love and hate. The film tells of a group of performers in a gypsy circus operated by Antonio Zanzi (Nick De Ruiz). One of the shows star attractions is Alonzo (Lon Chaney, Sr.), an armless man who can shoot a rifle and throw knives using his feet. (The scenes in which Chaney does such simple things as smoke a cigarette and drink a glass of wine using only his toes and feet were amazing considering that the actor was actually doing these things). Alonzo's assistant during his act is Zanzi's daughter, Nanon (Joan Crawford), a lovely young woman. Also, among the acts is the circus's strongman, Malabar (Norman Kerry) to whom Nanon is attracted.

It is quickly revealed that Nanon has experienced the unwanted advances of many men in the past and as a result is repulsed by men putting their hands on her. This causes her to blow hot and cold with Malabar, but plays right into the hands (no pun intended) or Alonzo, who desires her for his own. Alonzo plays on her fears by encouraging them. He also tells his companion, Cojo (John George), a dwarf, that he and only he will know Nanon's love.

After Malabar is again rejected by Nanon, she comes to Alonzo and while they are together, her father comes upon them. Incensed that Nanon is with Alonzo, he orders his daughter out and beats Alonzo for his impudence. Malabar comes at Cojo's call and saves the armless man and, in a scene that speaks of the depth of Alonzo's obsession for Nanon, Alonzo encourages Malabar to take Nanon in his arms if he desires her, which causes her to reject him again.

It is soon revealed that Alonzo has a secret, he is not armless after all - he keeps his arms strapped to his side using a girdle and only Cojo knows his secret. Alonzo is a criminal and a murderer and possesses the oddity that his thumbs are split at the last joint so that he has two pads at the end of his thumbs, making glove-buying an awful chore. He goes out with his arms hidden beneath his cloak and is confronted again by Zanzi. Zanzi discovers Alonzo's secret and Alonzo kills Zanzi by strangling him. He is seen in the act by Nanon, though she does not see his face, she does see his deformed hands.

After the death of Zanzi, the circus disbands but Nanon stays in town with Alonzo and Malabar stays behind and tries to woo Nanon again. Nanon goes to Alonzo for comfort and reveals through her actions that she has feelings for him. Alonzo is thrilled until Cojo reminds him that they could never be together because she would discover that he has arms and would hate him. He also reminds Alonzo that Nanon has seen his hands and would know she killed his father. Distraught at the thought of never being with Nanon, Alonzo distractedly takes a cigarette, lights it, and begins to smoke, doing it all with his feet despite having his arms free. Cojo laughs at him and tells him that he is forgetting he has arms Desperate to be with Nanon, Alonzo strikes upon the idea of having his arms removed, since he seemingly does not need them, and therefore, removing his only perceived roadblock to romance with Nanon.

Alonzo and Cojo seek out Costra (Frank Lanning), a doctor with a checkered past. Alonzo uses threats of exposure to get Costra to do the surgery to remove his arms. After a brief recovery, Alonzo returns to Nanon with nothing standing in his way of revealing his feelings. But in a cruel twist of fate, Nanon has overcome her fear of men's hands and fallen in love with Malabar and they are planning to be married. The scene in which Alonzo realizes that he has had his arms removed for no reason and laughs hysterically is one of the most chilling scenes in the movie.

Realizing that Nanon is lost to him, Alonzo decides to get revenge on the couple and the perfect way appears to him in the form of an act that Malabar is working on for his show. Malabar is set to stand between two horses running on treadmills in the opposite directions, while he is tied between them to show his prestigious strength. Alonzo sees that if the treadmills were to stop at the right instant, Nanon would have two armless men in her life, and so he learns how the treadmills are controlled by a lever and plots his revenge.

On opening night, Alonzo tricks the lever operator from his post and cuts off the treadmill. Though one of the horses is stopped, the other continues to pull and Malabar is in danger of being pulled apart. Nanon tries to stop the horse despite being threatened by Alonzo. She disregards the danger and puts her self before the rearing horse and Alonzo puts himself between the danger and Nanon and is killed when the horse tramples him. Malabar is saved and the two lovers live happily together.

Cast data provided sourced from the Internet Movie Database www.imdb.com

Book #14 in the series Animorphs by K.A. Applegate.

Disclaimer: If you've heard of Animorphs and you're thinking "Aww, how cute," maybe you should read my introduction to the first book to see how wrong you are.

THE UNKNOWN

Animorphs #14
by K.A. Applegate

Summarized Plot:

Cassie discovers horses acting weird during one of her animal doctor trips with her dad. She and the other Animorphs check out these horses and realize they're controlled by Yeerks who are using their bodies to get close to the mysterious Zone 91, which guards a possibly alien secret. The Yeerks are trying to find out what the conspiracy is, and the Animorphs figure they need to know too if the Yeerks think it's important. After escaping suspiciously when they get caught by security, they endure a horse-racing adventure to acquire horse DNA, and then the group goes back out to Zone 91 and morphs horses, following the Yeerks around until they infiltrate the facility and find that it guards not a weapon or a spaceship but an old Andalite toilet. The Yeerks don't know what it is, though, and worry that it's important and that it will cause humans to be more wary of alien invasions, so they work on a plan to make the Zone 91 head of security a Controller. The Animorphs must try to stop them, though they seem to have made an enemy of the same guy they're trying to save by escaping Zone 91 in the first place. . . .

About this book:

Narrator: Cassie

New known controllers:

  • None

New morphs acquired:

  • Jake: Horse
  • Cassie: Horse (golden stallion)
  • Marco: Horse
  • Rachel: Horse
  • Ax: Horse
  • Tobias: Horse

Notable:

  • A typo happened fairly early in the book: "shrivel way" was written instead of "shrivel away."
  • Zone 91 is an obvious reference to Area 51.
  • When Cassie is injured in a bomb blast that is thought to be just a "lost" bomb from the nearby military base, the theory that it's just an accident is accepted readily by Cassie's dad. I think most fathers would be so shaken and freaked out about their daughters being almost caught by a BOMB in an area deemed safe for civilians that he would at least start up an investigation of some kind. A military base causing bombs to go off outside the base which could kill civilians would be a massive scandal and news story.
  • During a conversation between Cassie's parents, Cassie overhears her dad joking that they can embarrass her by dragging her in to talk to "Father Banion" about her relationship with Jake. This suggests that there is some involvement with religion in their family. In a previous book, Ax noticed that Cassie's family does not do a prayer ritual of any kind before eating dinner, while Jake's family does. So apparently Cassie's family is churchgoing but does not say prayers at mealtimes.
  • The Zone 91 group attends The Gardens under a fake company name. The name they choose is "Gondor Industries." K.A. Applegate likes Tolkien references and this is just one of many.
  • It wasn't made clear why the Zone 91 company's outing to The Gardens was known to the Yeerks. Cassie found out about it because she was there to infiltrate, but up to that point no Yeerks had gotten inside, and the horse-Controllers who did never saw anything but the Andalite toilet. Why did they know about the outing if they didn't already have people on the inside?

Best lines:

Marco: "I think I like you better as a chicken, Tobias."
Tobias: "Red-tailed hawk."
Marco: "Chicken, pigeon, hawk, whatever."

Rachel: "Hah-hah! Oh, man, I love this! I love this, I love this, I love this! Yeeeee-haaah!"
Marco: "So, you're saying you love this?"

Cassie: I realized my life had gotten weird. I was flying a mile up, listening to a thought-speak debate between a bald eagle and an osprey over the existence of aliens. Good grief.

Rachel: "Are you okay?"
Cassie: "Considering I was run over by a tank, yes, I'm okay."

Jake: "We acquire some horse DNA, then we fly out to the Dry Lands and spy on the modest horses."
Marco: "Again? That's what we do every Saturday. When are we going to get to do something original?"

Cigar-chewing man: "Your horse is blue. Never seen a blue horse."
Cassie: "We like blue horses."
Jake: "Some day, all horses will be blue."

Ax: "It's an Andalite Dome ship's modular waste disposal system."
Marco: "You're telling me the Most Secret Place on Earth, the fabled Zone Ninety-one, the Holy Grail of conspiracy nuts, is hiding the secret of an Andalite toilet?"

Cassie: "And in the meantime, we have to avoid getting arrested by an Air Force captain who is frantically trying to protect the Most Secret Place on Earth, where they are hiding an old Andalite toilet."
Marco: "Does anyone else ever think maybe we've all just lost our minds? You know, like maybe none of this is real and we're escaped lunatics from the local hospital for the hopelessly wacko?"
Cassie: "Hey, we're saving the world here, Marco."
Marco: "That's what all lunatics say."
Jake: "Come along, my wacko friends."

Marco: "Could this get any faker?"
Crew-cut man: "Why are you kids so cynical?"
Marco: "We watch too much TV."



Next book: The Escape, Animorphs #15

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