31 in 31: Lon Chaney – Behind the Mask

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Story: A look at the life and work of horror actor extraordinaire, Lon Chaney.

Scares: If you’re old enough to remember Chaney’s films when they first came out? Maybe. And congratulations on finding the internets!

Splat factor: Zero. It’s a documentary about a silent film star. Even the clips are bloodless.

Closing scene “shocker”: Documentary. So nup, unless you count the short silent Western starring Lon after the end credits.

Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul): Original, though there are other Chaney retrospectives out there.

Trick or Treat: If you’re a true horror hound, you’ve seen a few of of Chaney’s pictures; Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and London After Midnight (what’s still available after all these years) are horror – and overall cinema – classics. And you definitely know about his expertise with makeup and costuming. So a movie covering his life and work should be catnip. It is.

There’s trivia along with the bio: the pain he endured creating his characters was blown out of proportion most of the time. “Vanity is a personal parasite” – Chaney’s views of the cult of celebrity was a rare public viewpoint from silent film stars (who were usually obligated to spend much of their life in the public eye), but here we get home movies and they show a warm, affable guy. And is that a young Creighton Chaney (aka Lon Chaney Jr.) in the background? A’yup. Kewl!

Also covered is his work with director Tod Browning, and how they “laid the foundation for the American horror film”.

Some may find this film a bit padded – there are tons of scenes showing Chaney’s performances – but they’d be wrong. Seeing these bits sheds light on the actor, and only had me admire his techniques all the more. Especially interesting are his non-horror roles with no FX makeup. It’s wonderful to see his ability to project emotions, and how he classes up the acting joint every time he’s in a scene.

A must view for any cinema buff, but 100% required for horror fans interested in the history of the genre

Score: wpid-pumpkin9.jpgwpid-pumpkin9.jpg wpid-pumpkin9.jpgwpid-pumpkin9.jpgwpid-pumpkin9.jpg
5 out of 5 pumpkins, for shedding light on an actor I’ve always admired, and doing a great job.

About Denise

Professional nerd. Lover of licorice.
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