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
In 1944, a strange looking actor (apparently as a result of an incident during The Great War in which his face was deformed) called Rondo Hatton made a film called The Pearl of Death (a part of the successful Sherlock Holmes series) where he played a murderer named 'The Creeper'. Apparently, Universal studios thought this character was too good for just a single outing and so obviously decided to make another film with the same actor playing the same character (and with a bigger role) and what we get is House of Horrors. The film features what would have to be described as a rather tame plot line; especially when compared to Universal's best films; such as Frankenstein and Dracula. The plot focuses on a sculptor who is dismayed by the way that critics lambaste his best works. His fortune changes one day when he rescues a man from drowning. He later discovers that this man just happens to be a murderer that the police are calling 'The Creeper', and he soon hatches a plan to have his new found friend murder his critics...
The main standout of the film is undoubtedly the presence of Rondo Hatton; although the performance is rather tragic considering the disease he had that made him deformed. The role and the film really exploit this, which is rather sad. The lead actor is Martin Kosleck and he delivers a performance that doesn't quite fall short of ridiculous and its rather hard to take seriously; although it is at least entertaining. The plot is not played out with any real style and the film does feel a bit stagnant. Director Jean Yarbrough doesn't really offer much in the way of suspense and intrigue and as such we're left with just the plot to keep us interested; which the film doesn't always manage. It's always rather predictable where it's going and unfortunately the film doesn't offer much in the way of surprises. Universal horror will always be remembered as the creators of some of the best horror ever made; but I very much doubt that House of Horrors will get a mention next to their classic films of the thirties. The film is not a complete dead loss but it's not a classic either.
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