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Lon Chaney in 'Black Bird' and more; Kenneth Turan's DVD pick

June 21, 2012|By Kenneth Turan | Los Angeles Times Film Critic

Lon Chaney stands pretty much alone in the history of American film. He became one of the biggest stars of the silent era by playing deeply human, invariably grotesque characters.

Chaney's best-known role, the Phantom in "The Phantom of the Opera," is a classic, but until now some of his other equally remarkable parts have been harder to come by.

Now the Warner Archive Collection has reissued several of them, many directed by Tod Browning, the filmmaker who was increasingly on his wavelength.

Earliest of the group is 1926's "The Black Bird," in which Chaney plays a pair of London twins, a kindly but crippled doer of good deeds and a criminal mastermind. But are they really twins?

Coming next is 1928's devastating "West of Zanzibar," with Chaney playing a man horribly bent on exacting revenge on the man who destroyed his life, only to find that vengeance is not as simple as it seems.

The last film Chaney and Browning did together was 1929's "Where East Is East," in which the actor plays a fierce father determined to defend his daughter's happiness at all costs.

Like all Warner Archive Collection films, these DVDs must be ordered from either or


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'Untamed' Joan Crawford, 'Dangerous' Bette Davis

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