BrianRxm Coins in Movies 84/122
The Penalty (1920)
Lon Chaney organizes the robbery of the San Francisco Mint
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The 1920 Goldwyn Pictures Corporation film "The Penalty" a silent film about a crippled man who becomes
known as "Blizzard" and the king of San Francisco's underworld.
 
The film was loosely based on the 1913 novel by Gouverneur Morris.
 
As a child, he was injured in an accident and treated by an inexperienced doctor who amputated his legs.
The boy has grown up full of resentment for his condition and plans to avenge himself on the doctor
and his family.
 
His other and larger plan is to command an army of criminals and malcontents in a scheme to paralyze the
city's police and fire departments and then loot the undefended city.
 
Included in his plans is the robbery of the San Francisco Mint located at Fifth and Mission Streets.
The building was active as a mint at the time; it opened in 1874 and closed in 1937.
The building is now known as the Old Mint or the "Granite Lady".
The Penalty
1. Title
 
In around 1893 a boy, a victim of city traffic, is treated at home by Dr. Ferris as his first serious case.
The doctor amputates both legs but then an experienced doctor arrives and tells Dr. Ferris that
he didn't need to do what he did. The boy hears this and hears the older doctor telling the parents
that the surgery was necessary to save the boy's life.
 
It is now 1920, twenty-seven years later, and San Francisco is the "richest city in the western world".
 
The Penalty
2. San Francisco, a view of the city
 
The city has one hideous blemish, The Barbary Coast, the location of vice and gambling.
 
The Penalty
3. The Barbary Coast
 
The Diana Hall and the Hippodrome are real places.
 
And now appears "Blizzard", the lord and master of the underworld.
 
The Penalty
4. Blizzard
 
Blizzard wears a pair of leather covers over his stumps.
He is very intelligent and has a knowledge of music and art.
 
The chief of the Federal Secret Service tells Rose, his most daring operative, that Blizzard,
"that cripple from Hell", is up to something.
He asks her to infiltrate Blizzard's organization.
 
Through the Master I much reach his slaves - the underground powers of the Reds
 
Whether he means Bolsheviks or the name of the gang isn't clear.
 
Blizzard tells his current mistress that he has a plan:
 
I shall be the master of a city!
And for my mangled years the city shall pay me
With the pleasures of a Nero and the powers of a Caesar!
 
Dr. Ferris is now a famous surgeon of the city and he lives with his daughter Barbara.
Dr. Wilmot Allen is Dr. Ferris' assistant and would like to marry Barbara.
Barbara, however, has dedicated herself to Art, and refuses to marry until she produces a
masterpiece of sculpture.
 
Rose takes the assignment, which means becoming Blizzard's mistress.
She succeeds, partly due to her education in music, and mainly by being able to manipulate
the foot pedals while Blizzard plays his piano.
 
The Penalty
5. Rose and Blizzard
 
Barbara places an advertisement in the newspaper:
 
WANTED - Model to pose for statue of "Satan After the Fall"
If you think you look like Satan, apply at studio of Barbara Ferris, 32 Institute Place
 
The Penalty
6. Barbara interviews the new model
 
Some excellent judges think that I resemble Satan
If there is enough of me.
 
Blizzard is hired as the model and later tells his associates:
 
Do I look like Satan?
Before I am through with her and her father, they'll think I'm the devil himself!
 
Barbara asks Blizzard how he knows so much about Art, and he tells her that his father was a
distinguished man who detested the boy's deformity and caused the boy to leave home.
 
Barbara: "Why do you live in the underworld?"
Blizzard " When Satan fell from Heaven he looked for power in Hell."
 
Barbara's father visits and recognizes the model as the boy he treated so long ago.
 
The Penalty
7. Blizzard meets Dr. Ferris again
 
The two men recognize each other.
 
The Penalty
8. Dr. Ferris explains to Barbara
 
Dr. Ferris then tells Barbara the story of his failure with the boy.
The story inspires Barbara with more affection for Blizzard.
 
Back at his house, Blizzard meets with his main assistant and lays out his plan.
 
First, thousands of disgruntled foreign laborers and malcontents will infiltrate the city.
 
The Penalty
9. Gangs are formed
 
Then an explosion will be the signal for the attack.
 
The Penalty
10. Explosion on Telegraph Hill
 
A mob appears downtown near the Ferry Building (which is still standing).
 
The Penalty
11. Raiders of the Ferry Building
 
Fire and riots will draw the police and military into the suburbs.
 
The Penalty
12. The Army battles the mob
 
"The heart of the city will be left defenseless - ours to loot at will"
 
The Penalty
13. Robbing the bank
 
This building has housed banks for many years.
 
And now for the Mint:
 
The Penalty
14. The San Francisco Mint
 
Blizzard still scheming, now with legs, orders his men to enter the Mint.
 
San Francisco Old Mint
15. The San Francisco Old Mint today
 
It looks about the same.
 
The Penalty
16. Blizzard's men attack the Mint
 
Blizzard's men carry bags of loot down the steps, most likely gold coins.
 
The Penalty
17. Blizzard giving orders
 
Blizzard concludes his scheme, but his assistant asks him:
 
Assistant: You talk as if you had legs! by God! You've gone mad!
Blizzard: But with the madness that succeeds!
 
Rose has moved into Blizzard's house.
 
The Penalty
18. Blizzard and Rose
 
Rose has fallen for Blizzard and their shared love of music has made them lovers.
 
The Penalty
19. Blizzard and Barbara discuss art
 
Blizzard begins romancing Barbara, but she laughs at him.
He begins to attack her but can't reach her on his stumps.
 
Blizzard leaves, Dr. Allen arrives, and she tells him that she will marry him.
 
Back home, Blizzard puts his revenge plan into effect.
 
The Penalty
20. Rose calls Dr. Ferris
 
Dr. Ferris, Barbara, and Dr. Allen are separately lured to Blizzard's house and he tells Dr. Allen:
 
Listen my baffled hero - if you wish the lady to go free
You must hand over to me your superb legs
Dr. Ferris will cut them off for you
Then he will graft them to me
They will be very becoming
 
Blizzard explains his bizarre plan to Dr. Ferris.
 
The Penalty
21. Blizzard explains to Dr. Ferris what he wants
 
You've played the trick with apes - now I'm putting human beings at your service
Your victim is fulfilling destiny in making you the master surgeon of the world
You must make it possible - unless you would have your charming daughter married to these
Give me legs and I will be a model son-in-law
Then I'll be a tower of strength - I'll be a Caesar
 
The doctor replies: "You're right, you'd be a Superman. I'll do it!"
 
The Penalty
22. After the operation
 
Dr. Ferris explains that he operated on Blizzard's head and not on his legs.
He removed a contusion at the base of the skull which caused pressure on the brain, explaining:
 
He has never been wholly responsible for his acts
This man, let alone, may become as great a power for good as he was for evil.
 
Blizzard announces that he is leaving crime and reverting to his real name (which is not stated).
 
His former associates, having heard of his conversion, become worried.
 
The Penalty
23. Blizzard's men are worried
 
They worry that Blizzard will "snitch" or inform on them, and decide to eliminate him.
 
Blizzard is now married to Rose.
 
The Penalty
24. Blizzard and Rose
 
Frisco Pete is the chosen assassin and he shoots the former Blizzard, who, dying exclaims:
 
Fate chained me to Evil - For that I must pay the Penalty
Don't grieve, dear - death interests me.
 
The Penalty
25. Barbara and Dr. Allen
 
"All that's left of him - an evil mask of a great soul".
Notes:
 
Cast:
Lon Chaney as Blizzard
Charles Clary as Dr. Ferris
Claire Adams as Barbara Ferris (Daughter)
Ethel Grey Terry as Rose (Secret Service)
Kenneth Harlan as Dr. Wilmot Allen (Dr. Ferris' assistant)
James Mason as Frisco Pete (Blizzard's man)
 
Director: Wallace Worsley
Writers: Charles Kenyon, Gouverneur Morris
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