A Blind Bargain (lost silent Lon Chaney film; 1922)
A Blind Bargain was a silent horror film directed by Wallace Worsley and produced by Samuel Goldwyn Pictures (before it ended up becoming Metro Goldwyn Mayer). It was based off a book released in 1897 titled The Octave of Claudius. It was released on December 3rd, 1922, though the Lon Chaney website states it was released on December 10th. It starred Lon Chaney in a dual role, those being Dr. Arthur Lamb and a hunchback. Raymond McKee plays Robert Sandall.
A man named Dr. Anthony Lamb has long been trying to find methods of extending the human lifespan. While he works, a half-ape-man wanders through his house, this creature being one of Lamb's early experiments. Meanwhile, an unsuccessful writer named Robert Sandall is depressed over how his grandmother is sick, and decides to see a specialist about his problem. In the park, he comes across Dr. Lamb and tries to rob him, but he is stopped and is taken back to Lamb's home. There, he tells Lamb about how he once had a great life, with a wealthy family, and married a woman named Angela Marshall. However, when his father died, Robert ended up falling into poverty, and joined the military. When he returned, he was shocked to find his mother was deathly ill.
Lamb then drugs Robert, and, even with his wife protesting his actions, plans to perform scientific and surgical experiments on him. The next morning, Robert wakes up to find that Lamb has brought Robert's mother to his home. Lamb states that she is dying, but he will save her if Robert allows him to perform scientific and surgical experiments on him. Robert agrees to the deal. Lamb fulfills his promise and ends up saving Robert's mother's life. Now that his mother is free of deathly sickness, Robert decides to leave to spend a few days with his wife, Angela. While he is out, Lamb's wife and the ape-man concoct a plan to stop Dr. Lamb from performing horrible experiments on Robert.
Meanwhile, at a charity ball, Rob and Angela plan to engage, but before he can, Dr. Lamb arrives and informs Rob that he must head back to Lamb's laboratory at once. Mrs. Lamb warns Rob of the danger, and tells him that he might end up like the ape-man in the future.
At night, the ape-man is sent by Mrs. Lamb to give a letter to Rob, and tells him to follow him into a laboratory. There, the ape-man and Mrs. Lamb show Robert many cages filled with dozens of ape-men, all of them being failed experiments concocted by Dr. Lamb. Lamb then comes in and explains the experiments. Robert is horrified at this, and so the two start to fight. Robert is defeated and strapped to an operating table. The ape-man comes in, and when told to leave by Lamb, refuses. The ape-man pulls a lever to release another ape-man, this one being huge and beastly. Lamb fires his gun a few times at the beast, but it grabs him and snaps his back, killing him. The beast then dies of the bullets. Now that Robert is free of experiments, he finally marries Angela, and sells his experiences in the form of a book.
The film got a positive reception from critics. Moving Picture World's review says:
"It appears to have been the aim of all connected with this production to accent the weird, mysterious and uncanny elements and to make the picture so that it would thrill and fascinate spectators because of its horror and mystery...Lon Chaney's work in this picture is really marvelous and he again demonstrates that he is one of the best if not the very best character actor on the screen. As the ape-man, his portrayal and likeness to a huge chimpanzee is wonderful and sends chills up and down your spine."
Variety's review says:
"Chaney, doubling as the doctor and the hunchback, gives a creditable performance and allows for some double photography that is by no means unworthy of mention. Always at his best in a grotesque make-up, Chaney predominates in the character of the man-ape, using the ungainly lope of the supposed animal as a means of locomotion throughout the interpretation of the character."
Despite the film's positive reception, however, no prints of A Blind Bargain are known to survive in any archives. The original negative was believed destroyed in 1931 and any remaining prints left of the film are believed to have been burned in the infamous 1965 MGM vault fire. However, many stills and a few posters of the film survive, and a draft of the script for the film seems to be available on an auction website.
The movie was shown in France under the title Rival des Dieux ("Rival of the gods") and inspired a satirical song in 1923, of which remains a pamphlet that directly referenced the movie.
- IMDb page for the film. Retrieved 18 Jun '19
- The page for A Blind Bargain on the Lon Chaney website. Retrieved 18 Jun '19
- The Silentera page for A Blind Bargain. Retrieved 18 Jun '19
- A possible page for the script on the Heritage Auctions website. Retrieved 18 Jun '19