Although Lon Chaney and director Tod Browning had made a couple of films together earlier in their careers, this unique melodrama marked the beginning of a string of chilling, macabre silent films, which included West of Zanzibar, The Unknown, and The Black Bird. Chaney is Echo, a sideshow ventriloquist. He cooks up a scam with two other members of the sideshow -- Hercules, the strong man (Victor McLaglen), and Tweedledee, a midget (Harry Earles). The three of them open up a bird store full of parrots that have impressive vocabularies -- but only when Echo, dressed as proprietress Granny O'Grady, is around. When the buyer takes the bird home and it won't talk, Granny comes around with a baby (Tweedledee in swaddling clothes). While "Granny" (using his powers of ventriloquism) coaxes the parrot into speaking, the midget cases the joint to see if there's anything worth robbing later. Trouble comes when they hire Hector, a simple soul (Matt Moore), as a clerk. Echo's pickpocket sweetheart, Rosie (Mae Busch) falls in love with him. Meanwhile, Hercules and Tweedledee murder a man while they're in the midst of one of their robberies. Hector is arrested for the crime while the others flee. To save Hector, Rosie finally agrees to give him up if Echo saves him. By throwing his voice, Echo makes Hector appear to give testimony which frees him. When Rosie goes to Echo, however, he sends her back to Hector, while he returns to the side show. His two cohorts meet their end when they run afoul of Echo's pet gorilla. This hugely successful film was remade as Chaney's first -- and last -- talkie. Harry Earles (who might also be remembered from his starring role in Freaks) reprises his role as Tweedledee.