Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The Unholy Three (1925)
Tod Browning is the supreme master of the odd, and Lon Chaney his muse.
Chaney plays Echo, a sideshow ventriloquist with an eye for jewels (and theft). Dissatisfied with the meager goods brought in by Rosie (Mae Busch), he forms an alliance with the Hercules the Strongman (Victor McLaghlen) and Tweedledee the "dwarf" (Harry Earles). Through the use of an elaborate and ingenious plan, they gain access to a wealthy home...but things fall apart when Hercules and Tweedledee decide to go back and finish the job themselves. Will they pin the crime on someone else? Will Echo be able to live with himself? What about Rosie? This is a gorgeous picture, atmospheric, with shadows thick enough to hide in; Chaney's ability to quite literally become anything is on fine display here. I also personally liked Earles' portrayal of Tweedledee - rough, sinister, and frighteningly dangerous. The contrasts between him and the role he plays in the plan were, for me, one of the most effective parts of the film.
Note: A remake was filmed in 1930, with dialogue added for the "talkies". The original cast was changed, with only Earles and Chaney remaining. I haven't seen this version but have heard that it has its own charms and is worth viewing.
I give this one: