While this 1930 sound remake of The Unholy Three is not quite up to the 1925 silent version (which also starred Lon Chaney), it is nevertheless a gripping little melodrama -- and what's more, it offers the only chance to hear Chaney speak on screen. That Chaney should die so soon after the release of this film is a crime, depriving the American public of a "second act" that could easily have been the equal of his illustrious silent-era first act. Chaney takes to the microphone like a duck to water; his performance shows a fine mastery of "talkie" acting that combines the emotional resonance of his physicality with a sense of just how far to mute that physicality to make it palatable when combined with sound. He is a joy to watch and in enthralling from start to finish. Lila Lee is good as his love interest, and Harry Earles and Ivan Linow are appropriately creepy as the other parts of the titular trio; it must be admitted, however, that Earles' voice is irritating and often hard to understand. Unholy isn't as good as the original only because Tod Browning's nightmarishly personal vision has been replaced by Jack Conway's professional and efficient but impersonal one.
A remake of the 1925 Lon Chaney melodrama of the same name, 1930's The Unholy Three makes several concessions to the newly strengthened Hollywood censors, but is still quite entertaining in a macabre sort of way. Chaney reprises his role as Professor Echo, a sideshow ventriloquist who moonlights as a master criminal. Convincingly disguised as a little old lady, Echo stage-manages a series of Park Avenue robberies -- with two of his carnival cohorts, malevolent midget Tweedledee (Harry Earles) and moronic strongman Hercules (Ivan Linow), doing most of the dirty work. Echo's sweetheart Rosie (Lila Lee) plays along with the Unholy Three but changes her mind when their latest burglary, which ended in murder, threatens to send the wholly innocent Hector (Elliot Nugent) to the electric chair. His resolve weakened by Rosie's pleas, Echo contrives to clear Hector in court through a clever vocal trick -- while his two confederates, in true "thieves fall out" fashion, bring about their own gruesome deaths. The Unholy Three creaks a bit at times, and the unintelligibility of Harry Earles often obscures important plot points, but the film is indispensable as the only talkie appearance of Lon Chaney, "The Man of a Thousand Faces," who died only two months after its release.