Thought I would spend sometime writing about the Universal studios film THE BRUTE MAN (1946) as it seems to get ignored by many people as it is perhaps the lowest point from what the studio had produced. This picture as perhaps a few of you know had Rondo Hatton as ‘The Creeper” in what was the end of the Universal Studios cycle of Horror films.
Rondo Hatton’s film dealings are sad story of a man exploited by a films studio in often heartless publicity.He was billed as ‘The monster that needs no make up” for this and other pictures he did in his short career. One can only imagine what was held in his heart as he surely must have heard what was said about him regarding his films and most likely much more that he heard outside.
THE BRUTE MAN does bring to mind the cliché life does imitates art which it unfortunately does for Mr Hatton. The killer in the picture us said to have been a former football that had facial appearance changed by having a lab experiment explode. The rest of the picture is his revenge on the people that caused the accident.
We tend to forget that there is a human being behind the faces we see. Bela Lugosi was a proud well educated well read man able to converse on a variety of subjects In his life Hatton was a star football player, pole vaulter of other sports for a local Hillsbourough High School in Hagerstown Maryland He that was voted “Handsomest man” for his boyish good looks that many felt his should try movies. He was married and divorced. While serving in the National Guard in Paris during the First World War Hatton inhaled a dose of what was thought to have been mustard gas. He recovered in hospital and sent home to Tampa where he became a Reporter. While at home Hatton developed acromegaly which effects the pituitary gland causing increased secretions of growth hormone.
THE BRUTE MAN features some interesting if not poignant moments some planned and rather blatant in that Hatton’s character of the Creeper develops a relationship with a blind female piano teacher who is also lonely. E.P Heggie’s fine work as the blind man in the hut that the Frankenstein monster finds in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) is in play for that moment of all be it slightly cheap sympathy. The man difference is that Hatton’s character never lets her touch his face to form a picture of what he looks like. The unplanned moment is when Hatton is shuffling down the street and he stops to peer in as a soda shop with college kids dancing in it. He stop just for a moment and looks in only to have a few of the kids notice him with their fresh smiley shiny features staring.He just continued on instead of smashing the glass or charging in the soda place to wreak havoc A strong moment personally since Mr Hatton was a college star this being a real glimpse of what he was before his accident.
THE BRUTE MAN also features actor Tom Neal who was in the seminal noir picture DETOUR in 1945. Neal looks odd in a little moustache that for some reason studios thought made men look older. Jack Pierce is even credited with make up on this film which perhaps is a bit of a stretch as not much is done based on the brilliant work of the past.
I have to wonder regarding the fate of Rondo Hatton and how he was treated by the studio. I have read Hatton was a gentle, deeply religious man who obviously made the most of his dream of being in films for which he did 28 different times from 1927 to 1946. BRUTE MAN was released after his death by heart attack directly linked to the acromegaly diseased that was caused by the mustard gas. The picture wasn’t distributed by Universal Pictures but bears the credit from PRODUCERS RELEASING CORPORATION. It again seems poignant to note that an actor Rondo Hatton who was so used cheaply by the studio billed as the “Monster that needs no makeup” would now have his visage celebrated each year with THE RONDO HATTON CLASSIC HORROR AWARDS of which I have included a link below for this an other years winners.