Unholy Three

The Unholy Three

Director: Tod Browning

Cast: Lon Chaney, Mae Busch, Matt Moore

     
 
Although Lon Chaney and director Tod Browning had made a couple of films together earlier in their careers, this unique melodrama marked the beginning of a string of chilling, macabre silent films, which included West of Zanzibar, The Unknown, and The Black Bird. Chaney is Echo, a sideshow ventriloquist. He cooks up a scam with two other members

Overview

Although Lon Chaney and director Tod Browning had made a couple of films together earlier in their careers, this unique melodrama marked the beginning of a string of chilling, macabre silent films, which included West of Zanzibar, The Unknown, and The Black Bird. Chaney is Echo, a sideshow ventriloquist. He cooks up a scam with two other members of the sideshow -- Hercules, the strong man (Victor McLaglen), and Tweedledee, a midget (Harry Earles). The three of them open up a bird store full of parrots that have impressive vocabularies -- but only when Echo, dressed as proprietress Granny O'Grady, is around. When the buyer takes the bird home and it won't talk, Granny comes around with a baby (Tweedledee in swaddling clothes). While "Granny" (using his powers of ventriloquism) coaxes the parrot into speaking, the midget cases the joint to see if there's anything worth robbing later. Trouble comes when they hire Hector, a simple soul (Matt Moore), as a clerk. Echo's pickpocket sweetheart, Rosie (Mae Busch) falls in love with him. Meanwhile, Hercules and Tweedledee murder a man while they're in the midst of one of their robberies. Hector is arrested for the crime while the others flee. To save Hector, Rosie finally agrees to give him up if Echo saves him. By throwing his voice, Echo makes Hector appear to give testimony which frees him. When Rosie goes to Echo, however, he sends her back to Hector, while he returns to the side show. His two cohorts meet their end when they run afoul of Echo's pet gorilla. This hugely successful film was remade as Chaney's first -- and last -- talkie. Harry Earles (who might also be remembered from his starring role in Freaks) reprises his role as Tweedledee.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Hans J. Wollstein
To base a silent film on a character that depends wholly on sound to be effective -- a ventriloquist for example -- may seem like sheer folly, but that is exactly what director Tod Browning and screenwriter Waldemar Young set out to do in The Unholy Three. That they succeeded as well as they did is mainly due to the amazing Lon Chaney, who made as convincing a carnival performer masquerading as a little old lady as he did a hunchback. Not that The Unholy Three stands up to too much scrutiny. Why, for instance, would Chaney's larcenous Grandma O'Grady risk his entire operation on a straight arrow like Matt Moore's Hector? And how come everyone is engaged in cataloguing the content of their safe at the very moment Grandma and Tweedledee (Harry Earles) arrive to case the joint? Such questions should of course never be asked of an unabashed melodrama like The Unholy Three, which depends entirely on the audience's ability to suspend disbelief.

Product Details

Release Date:
10/26/2010
UPC:
0883316289884
Original Release:
1925
Rating:
NR
Source:
Warner Archives
Presentation:
[B&W, Full Frame]
Time:
1:26:00
Sales rank:
38,218

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Lon Chaney Prof. Echo/Granny O'Grady
Mae Busch Rosie O'Grady
Matt Moore Hector McDonald
Victor McLaglen Hercules
Harry Earles Tweedledee
Matthew Betz Regan
Walter Perry Dime Museum Announcer
John Merkyl Jeweler
Percy Williams Butler
Marjorie Morton Mrs. Arlington
Edward Connelly Judge
William Humphreys Defense Attorney
Violet Cane Arlington Baby
Mickey McBan Actor
John Millerta Wild Man from Borneo
Harvey Parry Stuntmon
Charles Wellesley John Arlington
E. Alyn Warren Prosecuting Attorney

Technical Credits
Tod Browning Director
Cedric Gibbons Set Decoration/Design
Daniel J. Gray Editor
Dave Kesson Cinematographer
Joseph C. Wright Set Decoration/Design
Waldemar Young Screenwriter

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