The Unholy Three is about a group of circus performers lead by the ventriloquist Echo (Lon Chaney). He has Rosie O’Grady, Midget, and Hercules do his dirty work. Rosie does most of the work she pickpockets money and jewelry off men who come to flirt with her. Echo, Midget, and Hercules decide to fade out from the circus and to start their own racket.
They buy a pet store where Echo dresses up like an old woman and pretends to be Rosie’s grandmother. A young man named Hector works in the story. He likes Rosie a lot and she likes him as well. She likes Hector so much she tells him to leave knowing that no one else in the store is any good, she does not want him to get mixed up in their schemes. Echo as the grandmother sells a lady a bird he claims can talk. Being a ventriloquist he provides the voice for the birds. A few days later Hector takes the call from the lady that the parrot is not talking anymore. Also two rings were stolen from the lady. Echo finds out that Midget and Hercules have been holding out on him since he did not steal the rings himself. Echo as the grandmother goes to the lady’s mansion to check on the bird. He takes Midget along with him who passes for a baby. Midget scouts the place to find what can eventually be stolen while Echo makes the bird talk.
Hector and Rosie buy a Christmas tree and set it up together. Echo wanted to rob the rich lady’s house that night and have Rosie help him. Hector tells Echo as the grandmother that he wants to marry Rosie. Meanwhile Midget has been egging Hercules on that he (Hercules) is afraid of Echo and to prove that he is not. Hercules grabs Midget and they rob the house. Unfortunately they kill someone. Echo is furious with his two cohorts especially because they had a gun.
One of the men from the mansion tells the police that Echo as the grandmother and Midget as the baby were at the house the day before and that the baby had the pearls in his hand. The detectives go to the house to see Mrs. O’Grady about going to the house. Midget puts the necklace in a toy elephant. The detective plays with the toy and hears the pearls rattling around. Hercules grabs it out of his hand. Echo tells the detective that Hercules does not like when the baby is teased.
Rosie loves Hector but she does not want him dragged into her mess. He is devastated when he walks out of the house. She starts crying and he comes back in. Now Rosie cannot lie she tells Hector who she and everyone else really are. Hector does not care at all. Echo was in the closet the whole time. He does not say much when Hector leaves. Rosie asks what he will do and he just says “you’ll find out soon enough.” The next morning in the papers Echo reads that Hector has been arrested when the police found the jewels on him. Rosie wants to confess but all three men manage to get her into a car and drive away from town.
Hector is now on trial for his life. No one believes his alibi because no one can find Echo and Rosie. Echo has brought everyone out into the woods. He walks away from the house with Rosie to speak to her alone without Midget and Hercules hearing. They do not trust Echo and Rosie. Hercules tries to shoot Echo. Rosie gets Echo to help Hector out of jail. The only reason Echo helps is because he loves Rosie. Echo goes to the trial. He drops a note to Hector’s lawyer. The lawyer thinks it nothing and gives it to Hector. The letter tells Hector to get a postponement and that Mrs. O’Grady will show up. Echo show up as the grandmother. As the prosecutor is questioning Echo he gets emotional and slips out of his voice a second. The prosecutor unveils Echo and he confesses what he has done.
Luckily echo only gets one to five years in prison since he was not the one who committed the murder. Rosie and Hector meet Echo at the train station to say their goodbyes and thanks.
This was Lon Chaney’s first sound film and his last he ever made. Chaney was incredible the way he was able to slip into different characters and voices so easily. I have only seen one other Chaney film (Tell It to the Marines) I have yet to see his more popular silent films where he plays outcasts and monster but I think this was a good film for Chaney to have ended his career with because it leaves you wondering where his career would have taken off to had he lived. Even though he was a bad guy you liked Chaney. I liked the character because he was smart and because Chaney was so perfect in it.
The rest of the cast was good. I really liked Lila Lee as Rosie. She was a tough cookie who was just sick of everything she was doing and who she was with.
The Unholy Three is a very good movie. It is one I would not mind owning and watching a few over again. I cannot wait to watch the original 1925 version directed by Todd Browning and starring Lon Chaney in the same role.