Thursday, August 3, 2017

Movies Every Day 3: The Unholy Three (1930)

"Well, friends, that's all there is to life– 

just a little laugh...a little tear."

Why I'm Watching

  • Lon Chaney's first and only talkie.
  • I saw the 1925 version several years ago, and am finally getting around to watching this remake.

The Gist

Echo the ventriloquist, along with his buddies, Tweedledee the midget and Hercules the strongman, form an alliance of thieves, whose goal is to become really rich, with the help of Echo's love interest, Rosie. When a job goes south, Echo is forced to consider how much he really loves Rosie.


  • Opening with sideshow attractions reminds me of I'm No Angel.
  • Harry Earles and Lon Chaney play the same characters in both versions.
  • Lionel Barrymore masquerades as an old woman in the Tod Browning film, The Devil-Doll.
  • Echo is unmasked by the prosecutor at the trial just as the Phantom was unmasked by Christine Daaé.


  • Lon Chaney is not only a master of appearances but of voices as well. I guess that should be no surprise.
  • Harry Earles playing the midget goes a little easier on the kid he kicks in the chin this time. We also don't get to see the kid's bloody chin, which takes away some of the punch that makes that scene so appalling in the original film.  
  • Rosie pulls up her dress and exposes her knees to Hector.
  • The parrots have a sense of humor.
  • This version has more gags than the original.  
  • When Hector reads the account of the robbery of one of their customers, Echo realizes that Hercules was holding out on him and nearly exposes himself by using his real voice to say, "Why you!" 
  • Tweedledee pinches Rosie in a soft spot. 
  • The ape suit was pretty decent.


  • Why don't we have better prints of Lon Chaney's films? 
  • Why would the gang pull off another heist so close to the last one and risk suspicion?
  • Why does Echo say that Christmas Eve is the only night they can do the job at Arlington's?


  • Shadows of the three characters on the wall when they conspire about being the unholy three. 
  • Scene fades out when Chaney says they "just fade out."
  • After Hector tells Rosie she's like her Grandma, she denies it and shows off her legs.
  • Rosie punctuates the Coolidge joke by pulling a parrot's tail, making it squawk.
  • Tweedledee makes jokes in reference to Echo's feminine disguise. 
  • Granny and Arlington are encircled by the parrot perch up close while Tweedledee is in the baby carriage far in the background, adjacent to the characters in foreground.
  • The shadows of Tweedledee and Hercules appear on the wall as they speak, just before they go off to commit the robbery without Echo. It contrasts with the three shadows earlier, indicating a break in the alliance.
  • Tweedledee is often doing very un-babylike things in his baby garb, smoking cigars, pinching Rosie, and engaging in malicious behaviors that contrast with the innocence of a baby.
  • Tweedledee holds Echo's dummy on his lap, operating his mouth as he sings, demonstrating how alike they are in size and appearance.

Notable Quotes

Echo: Hey, you mullet head! Lay off that monk of mine or I'll stomp you into the sawdust!
Rosie: Shh! Not in front of the boobs!
Echo: Never mind the boobs!

Hercules: It sounds kind of creepy.
Tweedledee: I like it. It's unholy.
Echo: That's us! The Unholy Three. Understand, from tonight on, we fade out. There'll be no Hercules, no Tweedledee, no Echo. We just fade out.

Hector: There's another lady who's going to think over a Maltese cat.
Rosie: Think over a Maltese cat? Well, that's better than thinking under an elephant.

Echo as Granny: She only teases you because she likes you, Hector.
Rosie: Nah! Only because I'm kind to all dumb animals.

Rosie: Sure! Go ahead, ya' yaps. Fight among yourselves and see how long this racket lasts.
Echo: She's right. Now cut it out!
Hercules: Well, who started it?
Echo: Ah, shut up!
Tweedledee: The trouble with you, dad, is you're too feminine.

Customer (to Granny): Well, I wouldn't want such a rough speaking bird. Mine is a Christian home!

Hector: Well, uh, I was just going to say it's wonderful the way your Grandma can make those birds talk.
Rosie: Hector, she could make Coolidge talk!

Echo (to Hercules): Now, let me tell you something. Any time you guys think you're smart enough to operate alone, you go to it. But you aint and you know it. Now if you want me to string along with ya', you're gonna shoot on the square because you aint got brains enough to double cross me and get away with it.

Rosie: It's wonderful what you can get in the five and ten.
Hector: Oh, I know one young couple who furnished their whole apartment there. They have two children now.
Rosie: Well, you can't get them at the five and ten!

Rosie (to Hector): You think I'm telling you this for fun? It's the truth. I wasn't brought up on green grass and apple pie and Christmas tree like you was. I've been tramping around since I was 14.

Memorable Moments

Love It or Leave It

Love, love, love it! I can't say that I love either version more than the other, but enjoy them both for their own individual qualities. This version is a bit more lighthearted and comedic, while the original is darker and seems more sinister in tone. It is interesting to hear how Chaney uses his voice to convey subtle meanings through intonation and inflection. He made a natural transition to sound, as though he'd been doing it all along. It's such a shame he didn't live to do more talkies. He would have been an amazing Dracula. My admiration for him grows with each performance of his I see. 

Similarities, Surprises, Puzzles and Patterns is adapted from the Grid Analysis Technique developed by the British Film Institute from Aidan Chambers 'Tell Me' Questions.

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