Monday, August 22, 2011

The Unholy Three!

Turner Classic put on a gaggle of Lon Chaney flicks last week and I was able to capture most of them on DVR. I began plowing through them yesterday and picked the first Tod Browning and Lon Chaney match-up for MGM called The Unholy Three.

If you want a pretty good summation of this 1925 movie check out this link. For my purposes, I'll just assume most of you have seen it and plow ahead. Spoilers are in effect.

Lon Chaney as the ventriloquist Echo is pretty interesting at first. The scheme between him and Harry Earles and Victor McLaglen is daffy as can be. Their standing as outsiders seems to make them criminals, or that's the suggestion I take from it. Also their souls are pretty dark, and that's likely less a comment on their physical natures and the result of same than the universal nature of man. We're all pretty shabby critters according to this flick.

I was disappointed in how much of the action of the story was off screen. This is a heist movie in which we never see an actual heist. That's a problem, as it's the physical natures of the men which allow them to commit crime, but we never actually see them physically do it.

Some of the scenes in this movie also drag terribly. Long after the essence of a scene has been communicated we get minutes of rather pointless exchanges between less than compelling characters while apparently off screen very intriguing things are going on. Some strange storytelling choices are made in this one for sure.

Echo's transformation at the end is not very convincing actually. He overcome by guilt for what he and his cohorts have done, but he doesn't actually have to pay the price and that undermines his transformation. The narrative seems to demand he pay a greater price, but inexplicably he doesn't.

The less said about the "giant ape" the better. It's a clever attempt at a solution but the scale work doesn't succeed actually.

If the point of this movie was to present a cache of peculiar images, it does so, but when those images are required to assemble into a compelling tale, they alas fail to comply.

This silent version of The Unholy Three is interesting for Chaney enthusiasts, but it's not really a very grand movie at all.

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