The Unholy Three [1930]
The Unholy Three [1930] - Image

“That’s all there is to life. A little laughter … a little tear.” Totally offbeat sound remake of the 1925 silent classic (which was directed by Tod Browning), The Unholy Three once again stars Lon Chaney – “The Man of a Thousand Faces” – in his only talkie as well as his final film (tragically he died of a throat hemorrhage resulting from bronchial cancer less than two months after the film’s release on August 26, 1930, at the age of 47). Three sideshow performers and rather inept small-time criminals – “Professor Echo” the ventriloquist (Chaney), “Tweedledee the Midget” (a somewhat incoherent Harry Earles, reprising his role from the 1925 original) and “Hercules the Strongman” (Ivan Linow) – embark on a disastrous crime spree based out of a pet shop (not kidding!). They are joined by Echo’s pickpocket girlfriend “Rosie O’Grady” (the beautiful Lila Lee). Oh yeah, Echo also brings along his pet gorilla! Echo disguises himself in drag as “Mrs. O’Grady,” the grandmother who runs the pet shop, while Tweedledee acts the part of her baby grandson along with Hercules as her son-in-law. Meanwhile, the rather clueless pet shop clerk (and perfect dupe!) “Hector McDonald” (Elliott Nugent) falls in love with Rosie. After a jewelry theft leads to a murder, the gang begins to turn on each other. My favorite scene is the atmospheric sideshow at the beginning when all of the freaks are introduced (the fat lady known as "Ida from Idaho," fire eater, sword swallower, Siamese twins, etc.) and Tweedledee starts a riot (believe it or not, he kicks a boy in the face after being taunted by the crowd!). Directed by Jack Conway, The Unholy Three was based on a 1917 novel of the same name by Tod Robbins (who also wrote the short story “Spurs” that served as the basis for Browning’s classic 1932 film Freaks). The film breezes by with a running time of just 72 minutes. I would definitely recommend watching both the silent and sound versions as a double feature. Earles went on to star as “Hans” in Freaks. Useless Trivia: Known as the “King of the Gorilla Men,” Charles Gemora appears (uncredited) as the gorilla. He also donned a gorilla suit in such films as Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), Island of Lost Souls (1932) and At the Circus (1939), among others.   

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