Classic Film Guide

Unholy Three, The (1925) - full review!

Co-produced and directed by Tod Browning, this above average silent crime drama was later remade as a sound picture with two members of the original cast, Lon Chaney and Harry Earles. Based on the novel by Tod Robbins, with scenario by Waldemar Young (The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935)), Chaney plays Professor Echo, a ventriloquist, who teams with dwarf Earles, dubbed Tweedledee, and strongman Victor McLaglen (The Informer (1935)), who's called Hercules, to scam unawares customers into buying parrots from their pet shop. Initially, all three were in a sideshow during which Echo used Rosie O’Grady (Mae Busch) to pickpocket its customers. After a police raid, Echo convinces Tweedledee & Hercules to join him, forming "The Unholy Three", who along with O’Grady and an innocent, unsuspecting employee Hector MacDonald (Matt Moore) set up shop.

Echo uses his gift to make the parrots appear to talk to him, dressed as an old woman and pretending to be O’Grady’s ‘Granny’, in order to fool their customers into paying high prices for the otherwise ordinary birds. Echo is therefore in charge of the trio though Tweedledee, who pretends to be an infant around others, later connives with the dim-witted Hercules to exclude Echo from a jewelry robbery on Christmas Eve, during which they kill Mr. Arlington (Charles Wellesley, uncredited), who'd been an unsatisfied parrot customer. The three then decide to pin the murder on their ignorant employee MacDonald, with whom Rosie had fallen in love, much to the dismay of Echo who'd wanted her for himself. However, the trio's mistrust of one another and a personal plea from Rosie, who'd been taken against her will to their mountain hideout, to Echo eventually unravels things. A pet shop gorilla figures in the outcome. The film effectively ends with MacDonald's trial, during which Echo uses his gift to satisfy an agreement with Rosie.

Matthew Betz, who plays the detective, Edward Connelly, who plays the judge, William Humphrey, who plays MacDonald's defense attorney, and E. Alyn Warren, who plays the prosecuting attorney, also appear.

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