On the verge of being evicted from their run-down farmhouse, the large Kettle family is given a new, modern home after Pa wins a contest, but he is accused of plagiarizing his winning slogan by a jealous local woman.
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
Victor McLaglen, could not be loaned out from Fox to reprise his role of Hercules from the original silent version of this film, so the part was eventually shortened in the final cut. 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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An alternate ending was shot but never released. Closer to the original silent version, it has Echo telling Rosie to go to Hector at the carnival after he makes a full confession in the court. See more »
This 1930 film is a remake of Tod Browning's 1925 silent classic of the same name. This early talkie version, as directed by Jack Conway, is in its way as good. Browning's striking compositions and dark shadows are gone, but this is compensated for by some lively and very funny dialogue. Chaney plays a ventriloquist name Echo who who becomes a scam artist, opens a pet store, dressing up as a little old lady and calling himself Mother O'Grady, complete with white wig and high-pitched voice, and with the help of a midget named Tweedledee and a strong man named Hercules, sets out to prey on wealthy customers. As we can see, we aren't is Disney territory here but in Chaneyland, or more fittingly Chaney and Browningland.
From the opening shot in a carnival, surprisingly seedy and sexy, the movie has nary a dull moment. The preposterous story is undercut somewhat by a silly romance, but this takes up relatively little screen time and is well integrated into the whole. Chaney is a wonder, visually and vocally, and one can only speculate on what sort of career he might have had had he lived just a few years longer. He died of throat cancer not long after this film was completed.
The movie succeeds as a nightmare vision, of what I'm not sure, perhaps life, even when it fails as melodrama. It is infectiously loony and has yet a logic to it that enables the viewer to suspend disbelief. Neither Chaney nor anyone else condescends to the material. This one is played absolutely straight. There is humor, but no winking at the camera, as the funny stuff arises naturally from the story. This is I imagine the sort of movie many avant garde film-makers have been trying all their professional lives to make and have never managed to pull off. It isn't easy to make a bizarre melodrama like this. Too much sophistication will ruin it. It helps also to have a theatre background, as much of what keeps this picture so watchable is its busy and always intriguing surface, which is managed with at all times with the impeccable vaudevillean timing of a juggler with five balls in the air, and who never drops a one of them.
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