Sight and Sound - 12/01/2012
"[T]his is one of Chaney's most impressively committed early performances."
Lon Chaney turns in an amazing performance in this silent horror film, for which he had to wear an extremely painful harness that kept his legs strapped behind his back. Chaney stars as Blizzard, a double amputee who is out to get revenge on the incompetent doctor who performed the needless amputation on him when he was a child. Now the head of San Francisco's crime syndicate, Blizzard begins his revenge scheme by insinuating himself into the life of the doctor's daughter by serving as her model for a portrait of Satan. Soon, Blizzard's plan encompasses not only humiliating the doctor and his daughter, but also, as he descends into madness, conspiring with the communists on an invasion of the Bay Area. Absurd, frightening, melodramatic, and highly entertaining, THE PENALTY is a high point of 1920s horror.