U.S. Marine Sergeant O'Hara has his hands full training raw recruits, one of whom, 'Skeets' Burns, is a particular thorn in his side. If Burns's lackadaisical approach to the military were ... See full summary »
George W. Hill
In this early collaboration with director Tod Browning (Dracula, Freaks), Chaney delivers a dual performance of dramatic intensity, starring as Ah Wing, a kind-hearted student of Confucian ... See full summary »
Prizefighter Mason loses his opening fight so wife Rose leaves him for Hollywood. Without her around Mason trains and starts winning. Rose comes back and wants Mason to dump his manager Regan and replace him with her secret lover Lewis.
Professor Echo is a sideshow ventriloquist who recruits two sociopathic co-workers, Midge and Hercules, the show's midget and strong man respectively, into a burglary ring. Echo disguises himself as the elderly Mrs. O'Grady, the owner of a pet store, who sells talking parrots and mynah birds to a high-class clientèle with Hercules posing as his son-in-law married to Echo's pickpocket girlfriend Rosie and Midge passing as their infant son. Echo's ventriloquist skills initially convince the customers that their parrot can talk, but they're disappointed when they bring the mute bird home. A phone call of complaint brings Grandma O'Grady and her daughter's "baby" to the client's house to facilitate the bird's talking, an opportunity to case the house for a subsequent robbery by "The Unholy Three." Written by
Known as "The Man of 1000 Faces", Chaney signed a legal affidavit declaring all the voices he performed in this, his only talking film, were actually his own. Thus, in addition to multiple characters, he performed multiple voices. See more »
For Lon Chaney's sound debut, MGM had him filming a remake of one of his silent classics, The Unholy Three. I wish that Victor McLaglen had not been replaced by Ivan Linow as the strong man and Lila Lee is a more hardboiled case than Mae Busch, but the chance to hear Lon Chaney and realize he could have had a great career in sound makes The Unholy Three worth viewing.
The title comes from a crack Chaney makes about him as the show ventriloquist, the strong man Linow, and the midget Harry Earles being an unusual gang. The three decide to pool their respective talents with Chaney being a master of disguise as a criminal gang. As a front they open Mrs. O'Grady's pet shop with Chaney in drag as little old Mrs. O'Grady.
The weakness of the plot is Lila Lee who knows very well what this crowd is up to. She's along for the ride and she falls for a true innocent in this film, Elliott Nugent. He clerks in the pet shop and when murder is committed during one of their heists, he's set up to take the fall for it.
However the film was done to display Chaney's talents in creating new makeup faces and to throw in the dimension of voice. Who would know that after this film was finished that voice was attacked by throat cancer and then stilled.
One thing I found interesting showing the problems of early sound. During Nugent's trial sequence a note is passed to his lawyer Crauford Kent and Nugent reads it and they discuss the contents. They should have been whispering and would have been later on in sound. But instead they talk in normal conversational tone that certainly would have disrupted the trial proceedings. The microphone obviously wasn't sensitive enough to pick up whispers and/or the actors weren't accustomed to sound to fake it.
Speaking of the trial, John Miljan who normally played villains in his career does good work as the District Attorney who unmasks literally, the whole criminal enterprise.
The Unholy Three was not the best film Chaney could have done to make a sound debut, still it's our only record of him on sound and he registers well in the new medium.
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