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.
by Hal Erickson synopsis