Unholy Three

The Unholy Three

Director: Jack Conway, Lila Lee, Elliott Nugent, Harry Earles

Cast: Jack Conway, Lila Lee, Elliott Nugent, Harry Earles

     
 
A remake of the 1925 Lon Chaney melodrama of the same name, 1930's The Unholy Three makes several concessions to the newly strengthened Hollywood censors, but is still quite entertaining in a macabre sort of way. Chaney reprises his role as Professor Echo, a sideshow ventriloquist who moonlights as a master criminal. Convincingly disguised as a little old lady,

Overview

A remake of the 1925 Lon Chaney melodrama of the same name, 1930's The Unholy Three makes several concessions to the newly strengthened Hollywood censors, but is still quite entertaining in a macabre sort of way. Chaney reprises his role as Professor Echo, a sideshow ventriloquist who moonlights as a master criminal. Convincingly disguised as a little old lady, Echo stage-manages a series of Park Avenue robberies -- with two of his carnival cohorts, malevolent midget Tweedledee (Harry Earles) and moronic strongman Hercules (Ivan Linow), doing most of the dirty work. Echo's sweetheart Rosie (Lila Lee) plays along with the Unholy Three but changes her mind when their latest burglary, which ended in murder, threatens to send the wholly innocent Hector (Elliot Nugent) to the electric chair. His resolve weakened by Rosie's pleas, Echo contrives to clear Hector in court through a clever vocal trick -- while his two confederates, in true "thieves fall out" fashion, bring about their own gruesome deaths. The Unholy Three creaks a bit at times, and the unintelligibility of Harry Earles often obscures important plot points, but the film is indispensable as the only talkie appearance of Lon Chaney, "The Man of a Thousand Faces," who died only two months after its release.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
While this 1930 sound remake of The Unholy Three is not quite up to the 1925 silent version (which also starred Lon Chaney), it is nevertheless a gripping little melodrama -- and what's more, it offers the only chance to hear Chaney speak on screen. That Chaney should die so soon after the release of this film is a crime, depriving the American public of a "second act" that could easily have been the equal of his illustrious silent-era first act. Chaney takes to the microphone like a duck to water; his performance shows a fine mastery of "talkie" acting that combines the emotional resonance of his physicality with a sense of just how far to mute that physicality to make it palatable when combined with sound. He is a joy to watch and in enthralling from start to finish. Lila Lee is good as his love interest, and Harry Earles and Ivan Linow are appropriately creepy as the other parts of the titular trio; it must be admitted, however, that Earles' voice is irritating and often hard to understand. Unholy isn't as good as the original only because Tod Browning's nightmarishly personal vision has been replaced by Jack Conway's professional and efficient but impersonal one.

Product Details

Release Date:
10/26/2010
UPC:
0883316289907
Original Release:
1930
Rating:
NR
Source:
Warner Archives
Presentation:
[Full Frame]
Time:
1:14:00
Sales rank:
15,752

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Lila Lee Rosie O'Grady
Elliott Nugent Hector McDonald
Harry Earles Midget
John Miljan Prosecuting Attorney
Ivan Linow Hercules
Clarence Burton Regan
Crauford Kent Defense Attorney
Lon Chaney Prof. Echo
Richard Carle Barker
Fred Kelsey Cop at Train
Ray Cooke Sailor at Sideshow
Joseph W. Girard The Judge
Trixie Friganza Lady Customer
Charles Gemora Gorilla

Technical Credits
Jack Conway Director
David Cox Costumes/Costume Designer
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Percy Hilburn Cinematographer
Elliott Nugent Screenwriter
J.C. Nugent Screenwriter
Frank Sullivan Editor
Irving G. Thalberg Producer

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