george bricker, jan wiley, jean yarbrough, john hamilton, rondo hatton, tom neal, Universal, Universal Horror
The Brute Man would mark Rondo Hatton’s final film credit having tragically passed away due to heart problems. Cast in a number of films due to his physical presence which would make him an ideal on screen villain, which started out as supporting roles for a few crime, mob-related features. By the 1940s, Hatton would see his star elevated to leading roles for movies such as The Pillow of Death and House of Horrors, the latter of which alongside this movie would see him as the iconic Creeper character. This character would be so embedded in Universal’s golden era that it would be homaged in the 1980s feature film, The Rocketeer played by Tiny Ron.
Here, Hatton’s Creeper is out for revenge for those he believes disfigured him, starting with Professor Cushman (John Hamilton). Among those whom he pursues is a couple, Clifford (Tom Neal) and Virginia (Jan Wiley), who form part of a love/hate quadrangle with the Creeper who shows a heart of gold when trying to help Helen (Jane Adams), a blind pianist. This last part of the shaped motif is a little nod to Frankenstein’s monster who also befriends the blind flutist in James Whale’s 1931 version.
Despite these attempts to pay homage to the past and create terror in the cinema again, writer George Bricker (a gun for hire to create Production companies, B-features) would struggle to strike fear in the hearts of the audience. Likewise, director Jean Yarbrough would find it hard to break the mold of the low budget horror features that he had been accustomed to. So paltry was the final product that audiences responded negatively to it, and the film is now more closely associated with being the target for grilling in Mystery Science Theater 3000.
It would be a significant turning point for Universal, who were starting to see the effects of their golden years ebbing away and losing the magic touch it once laid claim to in the field of horror. Throughout the 50s their journey would take them in a completely different direction, but that will be for another series of articles.
- Saul Muerte