‘Beautiful artists models and a beastly killer!’
House of Horrors is a 1946 released American horror movie directed by Jean Yarbrough (She-Wolf of London; The Creeper; Hillbillys in a Haunted House) from a screenplay written by George Bricker (Pillow of Death; She-Wolf of London) and story by Dwight V. Babcock (Dead Man’s Eyes; The Jungle Captive) for Universal Pictures.
The production was filmed in September 1945 as Murder Mansion. The British release was retitled Joan Medford is Missing (the ‘H’ word being taboo) and it was also released in the USA as The Sinister Shadow.
The movie stars Rondo Hatton (previously in The Pearl of Death; The Jungle Captive; The Spider Woman Strikes Back), Robert Lowery (The Mummy’s Ghost; The Monster and the Ape), Virginia Grey (Unknown Island; Target Earth), Bill Goodwin, Martin Kosleck (The Mummy’s Curse; The Frozen Ghost; The Flesh Eaters), Alan Napier (The Uninvited; Isle of the Dead; The Mole People), Virginia Christine (The Mummy’s Curse; Invasion of the Body Snatchers; Billy the Kid Versus Dracula).
An entire series of Creeper movies had apparently been planned by Universal Pictures, with this being the first, and The Brute Man being the second. However, the sudden death of Rondo Hatton prevented any future pictures from being made.
Struggling sculptor, Marcel DeLange (Martin Kosleck) is depressed about being destitute and unappreciated by critics and decides to commit suicide. But just as he’s about to kill himself, he spots and saves a madman, named “The Creeper” (Rondo Hatton) from drowning.
Shortly afterwards, he takes the disfigured man into his care. Marcel also makes The Creeper the subject of his next sculpture and calls it his best creation. But as the reviews begin to break Marcel’s last nerve, he has The Creeper start killing the critics…
“House of Horrors is a bargain-basement production utilizing few sets and a minimum of extras; De Lange’s various artworks look like generic picks from the property shed. Because almost none of the violence is depicted on screen and director Jean Yarbrough shows almost no interest in the action scenes, the only really enduring images are threatening silhouettes of Rondo Hatton and close-ups of his fascinating face.” DVD Talk
“Light and shadows give a spooky atmosphere, making things feel raw like the 1930s rather than slick like the 1940s. Action is implied rather than shown, but the body count is high enough. The ending could have been more intense, the rhythm between the actors could have been tighter, and the script could have used fewer lame jokes.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
“There are glimmerings of a movie here, but the attempt is held back by Hatton’s inexpressive performance and by risible dialogue.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
“If you like this sort of thing, the picture is in the approved shuddery tradition and gets its story told quickly… Rondo Hatton is properly scary…” The New York Times, 1946
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Cast and characters:
Robert Lowery … Steven Morrow
Virginia Grey … Joan Medford
Bill Goodwin … Police Lt. Larry Brooks
Martin Kosleck … Marcel De Lange
Alan Napier … F. Holmes Harmon
Howard Freeman … Hal Ormiston
Virginia Christine … Lady of the Streets
Joan Shawlee/Fulton … Stella McNally
Rondo Hatton … The Creeper
Oliver Blake … The Janitor
Mary Field … Nora – Switchboard Operator
Byron Foulger … Mr Samuels
Perc Launders … Smitty – Typesetter
Terry Mason … Clarence – Copy Boy
William Newell … Deputy Coroner
Jack Parker … Elevator Boy
Syd Saylor … Jerry – Morgue Attendant
Janet Shaw … Taxicab Driver
Charles Wagenheim … Walter – Printer