Written by: Carroll Jenkins on June 8th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: USA, October 1st, 1946
Director: Jean Yarbrough
Writers: Dwight V. Babcock, George Bricker, M. Coates Webster
Cast: Jane Adams, Lorin Raker, Joseph Crehan, Peter Whitney, Donald MacBride, Rondo Hatton
DVD released: July 20th, 1999
Approximate running time: 59 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Image Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $9.99
Synopsis: An athletic and popular college student is severely disfigured due to a disorder of the pituitary gland (acromegaly). He returns years later and seeks revenge on former associates whom he blames for his circumstance. After he falls for a blind pianist, will love heal his madness? Or will she too meet her demise at the hands of “The Creeper”?
The Creeper character was introduced in the Sherlock Holmes film Pearl Of Death, and then featured in House of Horror where he was the tool of revenge for Martin Kosleck (The Flesh Eaters). This 1946 Universal programmer is Rondo Hatton’s only starring role and last film, and he makes the most of it. He takes the character of a mad killer who murders everyone he comes in contact with and makes him endearingly sympathetic. Just as in Frankenstein, he is an outcast because he’s ugly. All he wants is a place in this world, but there is none. Finally he encounters a [blind] woman who can see his inner beauty.
The back story blames his condition on a love triangle and a chemical accident. In life, Rondo was a newspaper reporter in Tampa and served in WWI. Possibly due to poison gas exposure he developed acromegaly. By the time of his Creeper roles the effects were quite advanced. He was exploited by Hollywood as the monster who needed no makeup, but that’s why The Brute Man is his best film. Anyone can tell that Rondo is no monster but a noble, gentle creature – a gentleman. You see it in his eyes, in his gentle voice. Yes, his dialog is thick and stilted, but that’s due to difficulty speaking caused by his deformity. What makes this film extraordinary is Rondo’s ability to emote with his eyes and facial expression. His does not simply walk through the movie like, say, Tom Neal (Detour) does.
The film is so low budget that when the star died prior to release they unloaded it to PRC, but production values are far above PRC standards. The hideout shack on the wharf is particularly effective and atmospheric. In one memorable scene Rondo looks at himself in a mirror, reflects on his condition, then smashes it into pieces. There is relatively little padding for a 40′s horror despite seemingly endless scenes of Rondo climbing up and down a fire escape.
This is a barebones snapper case edition from an adequate but unrestored source. Except for the title sequence, the film actually looks pretty good.There are no subtitles or captions, but the sound is sufficiently clear.
I saw Andre The Giant in a sideshow at the State Fair in Saint Louis and was awestruck with the force of his personality. I get this same feeling every time I watch Rondo Hatton in The Brute Man. It’s like remembering a dear, departed friend.
Note: Rondo Hatton’s unique look and physical presence make him one of the most iconic figures from Hollywood’s classic era of horror films. Since 2002 there has been an award created in his image called The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards.