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:


Lolita Kane said...

The talkie version is definitely worth watching! If only to hear Chaney's cool voice (his only talkie before he died). The advertisement for the film was something like "Not only a man of a thousand faces - he is now also the man with a hundred voices!" I think he has four different voices in that version ;)

Rose of Sharon said...

What a cute blog you have! I am an old movie fan, but I don't care for the silent movies, I just can't get into them. I have a big collection of "talkies" from the 30s, 40s and 50s. I have been reorganizing them and I have way to many (they are all VHS, some store bought and some are recorded off the TV). Any way, my favorites are the romantic comdidies with Ginger Rogers, Fred Astair, Gene Tirney, Dorris Day etc. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

:0) Sharon

Douglas Fairbanks said...

With all due respect, Lon Chaney

couldn't act his way out of a paper bag.

That hack, no-talent bastard should never have been allowed to speak in a motion picture.

I will concede that I probably spurred the imagination more deeply in my own silent features -- but I'm sure that you'll all concede that I mopped up the floor with that pansy Chaney.

Although I question any charitable references to Chaney, I do like your blog. You are invited to Pickfair ANYtime you'd like to come. . . .