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 »
This is just a little sample of what you will see on the inside. The beginning of the religious dance of the muscleman. This is the dance that broke the sultan's thermometer! Just a moment there, the big sensations for the inside. Remember I said, the big sensation on the inside. The admission is a dime, ten cents or ten part of a dollar.
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Interesting, if improbable, tale in typical Chaney mode...
LON CHANEY delivers an interesting performance (especially when posing as a kindly old woman), but not even the great Chaney can overcome all the defects in this remake of the 1925 silent.
For starters, the performances around him include two extremely bad examples of early screen acting--from awkward Lila Lee and a young man who would later turn his talent to directing rather than acting--Elliot Nugent. Nugent has the hapless role of an innocent, naive young man and plays it in hopelessly nerd style--a foretaste, perhaps, of his Broadway role as the timid professor in THE MALE ANIMAL. Anyway, his is the weakest performance in the film with Lila not far behind.
The tale itself is interesting enough to hold the attention--and especially chilling is the malice (pure evil) displayed by Harry Earle as the malevolent midget. Unfortunately, most of his dialogue is unintelligible due to his German accent, something director Jack Conway should have noted.
Only real satisfaction is watching Lon Chaney in one of his last roles. He is excellent and makes it painful to realize he was fighting throat cancer while filming was underway. A better script, production values, and tighter direction by Conway would have worked wonders to make this tale more chilling and believable.
Summing up: At best, it is an interesting example of Chaney's considerable talent despite the primitive acting technique displayed by Lila Lee and Elliot Nugent. Nugent's performance makes one grateful he switched to directing later in his career, with more satisfying results.
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