Lon Chaney – The Unholy Three (August 16, 1925)
Cast: Lon Chaney as Echo the Ventriloquist
Mae Busch as Rosie O’Grady
Matt Moore as Hector McDonald
Victor McLaglen as Hercules
Harry Earles as Tweedledee
Written by Tod Robbins
Directed by Tod Browning
Plot: Echo is a sideshow ventriloquist who is paired up with Tweedledee, a midget, and Hercules, a strong man. Collectively, they are known as “The Unholy Three” and the law is closing in on them. Can they commit one more heist and get away with it?
Richard’s Review: This was my second time watching the silent version of The Unholy Three but it felt more like a first-time viewing as I remembered very little about the story. However, this viewing left me very impressed as I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Chaney as Echo, a role in which he was allowed to act without the benefit of makeup. Granted, he was dressed in drag for much of the film but his acting abilities were still allowed to shine through. There was certainly a darkness surrounding the relationship of the three criminals, especially Hercules and Tweedledee, which allowed you to almost feel sorry for Echo, especially in the final scene. Highly recommended but take your time to find the good and tinted print with the better soundtrack. Some prints offer an inferior quality with a rather annoying musical score.
- Tod Browning work with Lon Chaney on 10 different films, including London After Midnight (1927) and West of Zanzibar (1928). He’s also remembered for such horror classics as Dracula (1931), Freaks (1932) and Mark of the Vampire (1935). After his wife died in 1944, he spent the next 18 years as an alcoholic recluse before dying of cancer in 1962 at the age of 82.
- Mae Busch is also remembered for numerous appearances in Laurel and Hardy films, including Sons of the Desert (1933) and Them Thar Hills (1934). Genre fans may have recognized her as the cathouse madame in Doctor X (1932). She died in 1946 of pneumonia at the age of 54. Sadly, her ashes remained in a cardboard box until the 1970s when they were claimed members of the Laurel and Hardy fan club Way Out West Tent, at which time they were finally given a proper internment and a plaque.
- Harry Earles made his debut in this film at the age of 23. He only starred in 14 films but is fondly remembered for his roles in both version of The Unholy Three, Freaks (1932) and The Wizard of Oz (1939). He mostly left Hollywood in 1930 to work full-time with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. He died in 1985 at the age of 83.
- Harry Earles actually played Echo in one brief scene in order to give the chimpanzee the appearance of being as large as Lon Chaney.
- In the original novel by Tod Robbins, Tweedledee was the leader of the gang, not Echo.
- Tod Browning cut a scene from the final film in which Tweedledee murdered a child, an act considered too disturbing for 1925 audiences.
Availability: The Unholy Three is in the public domain and can be found on Amazon Prime and is available in the Lon Chaney Warner Archive Collection with five other Chaney classics.