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“.
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.
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.