Look at that punum!

Voted the most handsome man in his class in his high school yearbook, Rondo Hatton developped Acromegaly – a syndrome caused by excess growth hormone being produced by the anterior pituitary gland. As a result, his limbs kept lengthening and his chin and nose grew forward, giving him the appearance of gigantic goon.

In 1930, while working as a journalist in Tampa, Hatton was covering the shoot of the film Hell Harbor when his mug caught the attention of director Henry King who cast him in a small role.

In 1936, Hatton decided to take the plunge. He moved to Hollywood where he began taking small uncredited roles  in movies. Perhaps his most notable appearance of that period is as a contestant in the “ugly man competition” scene of the classic RKO version of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame opposite Charles Laughton’s Quasimodo.

But it was at Universal that Hatton’s carrer began to take off. There, he became “The Creeper” and publicized as “The Man who needs no make-up“.

"The Creeper", doing what he does best: creeping.

Now acromegaly actually makes bones more brittle and weakens a man despite the increased size. But on film, it does make for a rater impressive presence. Hatton’s first incarnation in that persona was in the sixth film of their Sherlock Holmes series starring Basil Rathbone, The Pearl of Death (1944). Known here as the “Huxton Creeper”, Hatton’s character is a gigantic brute who picks men up and folds them in two- snapping their spines like twigs. Truly a memorable screen menace.

Over the next two years, Hatton would play “The Creeper”  in about a half dozen films before succombing to a heart attack brought on by his condition.

His final film was The Brute Man in 1946. The film is an unremarkable “programmer” (designed to be part of a double-feature program). In it, “The Creeper” is seekin revenge over his high school buddies whose prank left him in this state.

However, the studio was merging at that point and was dropping the B-movie unit. Also, the death of Hatton would make the studio appear exploitative. So The Brute Man was dumped by selling it to PRC (Producers Releasing Corporation) a poverty row studio who could live with the finger pointing. For PRC, it represented a step up to have a release whose credits included big studio names like legendary make-up man Jack Pierce. Pierce was the make-up man behind the look of Universal’s “Unholy Three” which consited of Lugosi’s Dracula, Karloff’s Frankenstein Monster and Chaney’s Wolfman.  His name here definitely feels out of place here. However, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the tyrannic make-up man would claim he designed Rondo’s face himself.

Posthumously, Rondo’s appearance would inspire the character Lothar in Dave Stephen’s Graphic Novel The Rocketeer.

His mug would grace the screen again via prosthetic makeup worn by Tiny Ron Taylor in the 1991 feature film version.

Tiny Ron Taylor as "Lothar"

Here, pretty people,  is the complete feature The Brute Man for you to gawk at:

Pain Level: 5/10

Quality of pain: Not very pretty

Painjoyment™ Level: More of a curiosity than a bad movie.









About The Cinémasochist

Artefacts from a former life where I gave a shit about cinema. As far as I’m concerned, cinema is a 20th Century art form. I no longer care and will be pulling the plug on this blog soon. View all posts by The Cinémasochist

3 responses to “Look at that punum!

  • Stephen D. Anderson

    I discovered this excellent site while searching for info on acromegaly, so obviously was taken to this page in your archives. I am very interested in exploring more archives here, but my comment concerns acromegaly in film, which your site addresses wonderfully, with very cool presentations. I am aware of both Harry Thomas and Rondo Hatton, but not with all the films you cover here, and I really want to investigate them further (that is, watch them in full if possible). I have the Holmes’ film with Hatton as The Creeper, and I think one other but that’s all. So I’ll look for ‘The Brute Man’ and the others covered here. One last comment on a different film in which acromegaly itself, as a disease given intentionally to one of the characters, figures prominently. I imagine you are familiar with it, but if not the title is ‘The Monster Maker’. It’s certainly a B picture but is intriguing to me and actually much better than I expected. One plus is that the villain/doctor is played by one of my favorite actors from the past: J. Carroll Naish, who has developed a serum that induces acromegaly when injected into a subject, which he does with relish. Anyway, I won’t ramble on further, as all the stats on the film (date, etc) are to be found easily enough. But the subject of acromegaly so rarely occurs, especially in film, that I wanted to mention ‘The Monster Maker’. Thank you for your excellent site! Stephen D Anderson

    • The Cinémasochist

      Thank you for the kind words.
      There actually might be some acromegaly in my own genes.
      A few years ago, my mother (who was 5’11”) underwent a battery of test for suspected glandular problems. When the resultscame back, she was asked if there was any gigantism or acromegly in previous generations. That was easy for her to answer: “My great-granfather was 6 foot 9 irishman.”

      • Stephen D. Anderson

        Wow, 6′ 9″ ! I just watched “The Informer” (for the 100th time or so) with Victor McLaglen, a damn big irishman himself, but I think your great-g has him beat. I had a professor at Vanderbilt Univ. with severe acromegaly; truly disfiguring but his intelligence trumped the physical condition… for us that is, I can’t imagine what it was really like for him.

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