The Brute Man

Discussion in 'Classic' started by dwatts, Mar 4, 2008.

  1. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    I've recently travelled and investigated the myriad delights of Poverty Row Horror. The three studios, Monogram, PRC and Republic Studios were a graveyard of sorts where actors passed their prime (or having failed to ever reach a prime), directors without too much talent, writers without much of an idea how to contain a good plot within short running times, and the non-existance of a costume department (much of the time the actors had to bring their own wardrobe) didn't matter a bit. Ah, the good old days.

    Poverty Row Horror horror films were made quickly, cheaply, and often as fillers for other features. There wasn't time for rehearsals, mutiple takes, and waiting for the FX guys to get their act together. Horror sold, and even if a story wasn't really a horror film it wasn't much of a problem, just slap a horror title on the picture and hope no-one will notice.

    Yet there's at least one Poverty Row Horror film that had it's root firmly planted in the great Universal studios - The Brute Man. The Brute Man has all the hallmarks of a Universal film -a character in The Creeper who had appeared in several of their films previously - music cues stolen (borrowed, immitated) from the classics such as Wolf Man - and of course a lead in Rondo Hatton familiar at the time having had success in the Rathbone Sherlock Holmes film The Pearl of Death.

    And so it is - The Brute Man is a Universal film that was finished right at the time when Universal entered into a policy of releasing no more B films. Since they couldn't release it they sold it on, and who better to sell it too than PRC, the late, great, Poverty Row studio?

    Hence we have a "lost" Universal film. Not lost in the sense that you can't find it to give it a view, but lost in the sense that it's origins have become hidden, and you could mistake it for a real product of PRC.

    The Poverty Row Horror studions were a bit of a graveyard for horror stalwarts: John Carradine, Bela Lugosi, George Zucco, Lionel Atwill. It's pushing it to claim Rondo Hatton is one of the greats - he appeared in very few films, and always as the same character - but he was certainly a notable presence. For all its Universal roots, the film certainly feels like a Poverty Row title at times. That Hatton would so quickly end up here is a real pity, but then, he really was at the end of the line by the time he made this one. In fact, he was dead before it was released.

    The film itself is simplicity itself. Student, and football player Moffat is involved in a love triangle with his room mate and a beautiful girl. The room mate conspires to make sure Moffat is held behind class while he dates the girl. In his frustration Moffat throws a tube of chemicals to the floor causing an explosion which disfigures him. He materializes decades later as Moffat - now played by Hatton. And yes, he's still pissed off. Slowly he's killing all those that conspired against him - the professor who held him behind, the two lovers who went on to marry.... and a blind girl he meets along the way.... Can the police figure out the identity of the killer (known only as The Creeper), and put a stop to these killings? Sure they can!

    Not only is the film full of some weird plot twists, it's also an overall dark and rather bleak film. Knowing that Hatton's health is such that he'd never see the film released makes it a bit unfortable to watch. Also, Hatton is playing a monster, one whose face has women running screaming the head off, without any makeup. It couldn't have been good playing a chemical spill victim with your own face. Still, acromegaly had ravaged Hatton, and he was never likely to get the role of a leading man.

    Even at a scant running time of 59 minutes things are pretty stretched out. There are lots of scenes of Hatton wandering around the streets, he climbs a fire escape three times, footage of a police car racing toward the crime scene is shown at both the start of the film, and the end of the film. Other parts of the film makes litle logical sense - but if you've dealved into Poverty Row, this shouldn't be a problem (and yes, Universal were doing a fair impresion of Pverty Row with this one).

    On the other hand, Hatton is menacing. Some of the shots of him by a dockside, climbing the fire escape, and coming through doors towards unsuspecting victims and truly great. As an actor he had no range, but what he did he did very well.

    To add one final twist to the whole deal, this movie is considered a prequel to House of Horrors made just months prior (which questions Hollywood lore that the very first prequel wasn't made until 1948). Well, maybe we'll never know the real intentions of these film makers.

    As a fan of Universal films, or Poverty Row Horror, and B films in general, I wasn't nearly as bored by this film as some. Yes even at 59 minutes it's padded, but what the heck. It is only an hours worth of entertainment. The Creeper might not have the cache of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man or the Mummy. But he's a bona-fide Universal monster - albeit a rather mean-spritied one in some ways. He's just not one of the best.

    Take a bow Mr. Hatton.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2008
  2. Horrorfan

    Horrorfan New Member

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    Excellent film that is setting on my shelf as we speak.
     
  3. Mattapooh

    Mattapooh Member

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    Don't forget the MST3K episode as well!
     
  4. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    I'd never watch it. I hated the show. They simply took the piss out of good cinema because it's the easy thing to do. No thanks. ;)
     
  5. Mattapooh

    Mattapooh Member

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    I dunno if something like Zombie Nightmare or Laserblast constitutes "good cinema", but I've always loved it. That doesn't mean I hate the flicks they're riffing on either, I just don't find it that hard to separate the two.
     
  6. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    Well, I call anything I enjoy good. :lol:

    There are plenty of fans of MST3K on the board here, so you're in good company. I just foud it all really sad and pathetic, and they just took the piss out of things I happen to love. Laughing with a movie is good, laughing at it isn't.

    But each to their own, and as I say, many people on here are fans. You couldn't pay me to watch them tear apart The Brute Man. ;)
     
  7. Erick H.

    Erick H. Well-Known Member

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    Pretty good little B-pragrammer that gains most of it's notoriety from Hatton's presence.He was an interesting fellow.Hatton was a college athelete and World War 1 vet who was gassed by the Germans during his service.Although he contracted acromegaly,which painfully distorted his features,he nonetheless was holding down a career as a sports writer before hitting on the idea of letting Hollywood use his looks to cinematic effect.Rather cruelly advertised as the horror star who needed no makeup to scare people,he was,by all accounts,a good natured,kindly fellow.He made an impression as The Hoxton Creeper in a Sherlock Holmes picture and essentially played that spine snapping menace in a clutch of films in the last years of his life.Hatton actually married a rather attractive woman,she said that she was once married to a handsome man who had treated her cruelly,but was drawn to Hatton because of his kindness.

    Hatton's image inspired the look of the villian's brutish henchman in THE ROCKETEER.
     
  8. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    He was a tragic figure. Apparently some scenes in this film mirrored his real life experiences - for instance in college he'd been a football player etc. That had to make things pretty hard to take.... Hard to imagine he'd be dead before this film could get released.....
     
  9. Erick H.

    Erick H. Well-Known Member

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    There is probably a good movie to be made about the man's life,though I would hate to see his name/story exploited in death as it was in life.He did seek films out,though,perhaps he felt it was one way he could truly be the captain of his own fate.Better than living as a recluse,I guess,I can respect him stepping up and trying to shape his own destiny.Sad story,but an admirable man.
     

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