Three sideshow performers leave their lives of captivity and become "The Unholy Three." Echo the ventriloquist assumes the role of a kindly old grandmother who runs a bird shop. Tweedledee, the "twenty inch man," becomes her grandbaby, and Hercules is their assistant. Soon an incredible crime wave is launched from their little store. Written by
David Ezell <email@example.com>
During the scene where Echo and company are fleeing the pet store, Echo decides to take his pet ape with them. The "Ape" was actually a three-foot-tall chimp who was made to appear gigantic with camera trickery, an especially built smaller scale set to make it look bigger, and perspective shots. When Echo removes the ape from his cage, the shot shows Echo (with his back turned to the camera) unlocking the cage and walking the ape to the truck. The ape appears to be roughly the same size as Echo. This effect was achieved by having dwarf actor Harry Earles (who played "Tweedledee" in the film) play Echo for these brief shots, and then cutting to the normal sized Lon Chaney, making it seems as though the Ape is gigantic. See more »
The Ape at the pet store is clearly a chimpanzee, but is depicted as larger than a real chimpanzee can grow. See more »
'Twas a balmy summer evening, And a goodly crowd was there.
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Lon Chaney known as the man of a thousand faces usually reserved those faces for some grotesque character or monster to which he brought his considerable acting talents to create sympathy. The Unholy Three is an unusual film because he's quite an ordinary man here, but he effects the disguise of an old woman for criminal purposes.
Due to some light fingered activity at a carnival he was employed at Chaney, strong man Victor McLaglen, and midget Harry Earles find themselves unemployed. Chaney who is a ventriloquist decides that the three with their unique physical characteristics and talents can be used to create a nice criminal gang. Chaney in fact goes incognito in the guise of an old woman and Earles plays her grand baby. Personally I think he was way too big to be a toddler, but that's a little dramatic license that director Todd Browning was taking.
Chaney also buys a pet shop and Mae Busch who was a carnival waif goes and lives with them. They also employ Matt Moore as a salesman who is totally clueless about Chaney's and Earles's real identity and what they really do.
Things go wrong and a murder is committed on a job Chaney could not go along on. That sets the rest of the story in motion.
Of course Chaney's guise as an old woman is an astounding success as were all the other characters he created. Yet all the makeup and special effects would be for naught had he not had the acting chops to make it real.
Saying that and saying that because Chaney's virtuosity dominates the film. I thought the ending was truly a cop out. It dulls the impact of Chaney's artistry and it was quite a let down in a film I was ready to rate a notch or two higher.
Still his legion of fans will be well satisfied with this silent version of The Unholy Three remade by MGM for sound, Chaney's one and only sound feature.
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