Unholy Three, The (1930)

Unholy Three, The (1930)

“I wasn’t brought up on green grass and apple pie and Christmas trees like you was.”

Three sideshow performers — Echo the ventriloquist (Lon Chaney, Sr.), Hercules the strongman (Ivan Linow), and a midget (Harry Earles) — team up undercover with Echo’s girlfriend (Lila Lee) to run a bird shop as a front for robbing customers’ homes. When the shop’s innocent clerk (Elliott Nugent), who is in love with Rosie (Lee), is falsely accused of theft, Lee must determine where her loyalty lies.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Con Artists
  • Falsely Accused
  • Lon Chaney, Sr. Films
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities
  • Thieves and Criminals

Lon Chaney, Sr.’s first talkie (and final film) was this remake of Tod Browning’s marvelously unique silent film of the same name, which starred Victor McLaglen in the role of Hercules. Unfortunately, the addition of sound doesn’t do much for the film at all — and without Browning’s quirky touch, it falls rather flat. Viewers who’ve never seen the original will likely be intrigued to see Chaney in drag:

… and Earles’ impersonation as a babbling baby:

… but they do nothing new or innovative in the remake. Meanwhile, the drama involving a clueless sap (Nugent) hopelessly in love with pretty but gruff Lee doesn’t ring true:

(How can he never hear any of the shenanigans going on right behind closed doors in the shop?) You can skip this one unless you’re curious to compare the versions, and/or to hear Chaney, Sr.’s voice on film.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Some memorable images

Must See?
No. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Unholy Three, The (1930)

  1. First viewing. A once-must for Chaney’s performance (in his only talkie).

    As with the 1925 original version, the film remains just as improbable but we’re mainly watching this for Chaney – though Earles (hilarious, thanks to sound) and Linow acquit themselves nicely.

    If the film weren’t so self-aware, it might easily qualify as camp (since the situation is so goofy). Like its predecessor, the film does creak a bit now but it’s not without energy and some sequences are esp. lively.

    Surprisingly, this sequel is about 15+ minutes shorter than the original.

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