Marcel De Lange is a struggling sculptor whose work and sanity are derided by the New York art critics. After waspishly officious critic F. Holmes Harmon ruins a sale for De Lange by dismissing his expressionistic cubist work as "tripe" and later gloating about it in his column, the distraught artist goes to the river to drown himself. There he discovers the half-drowned body of the notorious serial killer, the Creeper, and takes him back to his studio to recover. Feeling empowered by the friendship of the acromegalic sociopath, De Lange tasks him with murdering the critics who have pilloried him in print. When successful commercial artist Steve Morrow is wrongly suspected of the crimes, his art critic girlfriend Joan Medford decides to follow her instinct about a mysterious bust De Lange has suspiciously covered in his studio, and she decides to snoop around. Written by
One of many 60-minute B-movie horrors that Universal churned out in the 1940's, House of Horrors remains one of the most fondly remembered due to the hulking presence of Rondo Hatton. Originally a journalist and apparently a handsome man, he developed acromegaly which began to disfigure him in adulthood. He started getting extra work and bit-parts as faceless thugs until he appeared as 'The Creeper' in the Sherlock Holmes film The Pearl of Death (1944). Universal planned a series of films starring Hatton as The Creeper, but after this and it's sequel The Brute Man (1946), he sadly died of a heart attack brought on by his disease. He was far from a good actor - he does little but grunt and talk in child-like speech - but his presence is undeniable, and probably saves House of Horrors from obscurity.
Living alone in his rotting studio, sculptor Marcel De Lange (Martin Kosleck) is on the verge of selling his best work to a high-rolling collector. Unfortunately, the potential purchaser brings along notorious art critic F. Holmes Harmon (Alan Napier), who dismisses Marcel's work as a travesty, causing the sale to fall through. Penniless and on the verge of suicide, he spots a body wash ashore one night. The body is that of the Creeper, a known serial killer with the face of "the perfect Neanderthal," (as Marcel dubs him), so Marcel brings him home and nurses him back to health. Fascinating with his appearance, Marcel begins to sculpt the Creeper and exploit his blood-lust by setting him up to murder his enemies.
At just 65 minutes, House of Horrors, also known as Murder Mansion and Joan Medford is Missing, doesn't demand much at all. This is a formulaic genre picture that manages to squeeze an extraordinary amount into it's slender running time, and remains suitably entertaining throughout. Kosleck, for all his ham-fisting, manages to inject a tragic quality into his character, at first humble and optimistic, and later hateful and blood-thirsty. But it's Hando that steals the film - his Creeper snaps a woman's spine just for screaming in a scene that more than hints at rape (a big no-no in the 40's). Though there's no background or personality given to the character, that lurch-like appearance more than compensates. A forgettable genre film that is certainly worth an hour of your time.
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