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Tod Browning's sideshow shockers. Disc two, The unknown, The mystic.

Call Number



Blu-ray special edition.


Silent, with English intertitles and accompanying score.


The mystic: Aileen Pringle, Conway Tearle.

Publication Information

[New York, NY] : Criterion Collection, [2023]

Physical Description

1 videodisc (67, 74 minutes) : silent, black and white ; 4 3/4 in.


Not rated.


"The world is a carnival of criminality, corruption, and psychosexual strangeness in the twisted pre-Code shockers of Tod Browning. Early Hollywood's edgiest auteur, Browning drew on his experiences as a circus performer to create subversive pulp entertainments set amid the world of traveling sideshows, which, with their air of the exotic and the disreputable, provided a pungent backdrop for his sordid tales of outcasts, cons, villains, and vagabonds. Bringing together two of his defining works (The Unknown and Freaks) and a long-unavailable rarity (The Mystic), this cabinet of pre-Code curiosities reveals a master of the morbid whose ability to unsettle is matched only by his daring compassion for society's most downtrodden."--Container.

The unknown: "The most celebrated and exquisitely perverse of the many collaborations between Tod Browning and his legendary leading man Lon Chaney, The Unknown features a wrenchingly physical performance from "the Man of a Thousand Faces" as the armless Spanish knife thrower Alonzo (he flings daggers with his feet) whose dastardly infatuation with his beautiful assistant--a woman, it just so happens, who cannot bear to be touched by the hands of any man--drives him to unspeakable extremes. Sadomasochistic obsession, deception, murder, disfigurement, and a spectacular Grand Guignol climax--Browning wrings every last frisson from the lurid premise."--Container booklet page 11.

The mystic: "A fantastically atmospheric but rarely seen missing link in the development of Tod Browning's artistry, set amid his favored milieu of shadowy sideshows and clever criminals, The Mystic provides a striking showcase for silent-era diva Aileen Pringle, who sports a series of memorably outré looks (courtesy of art deco designer Erté) as Zara, a phony psychic in a Hungarian carnival who, under the guidance of a Svengali-like con man, crashes--and proceeds to swindle--American high society. Browning's fascination with the weird is on full display in the eerie séance sequences, while his subversive moral ambiguity extends surprising sympathy to even the most seemingly irredeemable of antiheroes."--Container booklet page 15.


The unknown: Originally produced as a motion picture in 1927.

Disc released as part of the two-disc set Tod Browning's sideshow shockers.

Special features: New 2K digital reconstruction and restoration of The Unknown by the George Eastman Museum, with a new score by composer Philip Carli ; new 2K digital restoration of The Mystic, with new score by composer Dean Hurley ; audio commentary on The Unknown and an introduction to The Mystic by film scholar David J. Skal ; new interview with author Megan Abbott about director Tod Browning and pre-code horror.


  • Unknown / Mystic

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