On the list of all-time greatest horror movie icons, the name Rondo Hatton probably ranks pretty high. He was never a star the caliber of Karloff, Lugosi, or Vincent Price; in fact, he ultimately made only a handful of seldom-seen B pictures, typically playing some variation of a character called The Creeper. But Rondo had one thing going for him that those pretty boys couldn’t claim: he didn’t need makeup.
It wasn’t always that way, though: Hatton was actually voted handsomest boy in his high school class. But later in life he suffered from acromegaly, a disorder of the pituitary gland that causes abnormal growth (especially in the face), leaving the patient deformed. He was working as a journalist when the condition set in, and was eventually discovered by a Hollywood talent scout looking for a guy with an ugly mug. After doing a series of bit parts (including one as a guy who loses an “Ugly Man” competition to Charles Laughton’s Hunchback of Notre Dame), Hatton played the Hoxton Creeper in a Sherlock Holmes movie, and pretty much spent the rest of his career in that role.
(The above image of Rondo as The Creeper was, as you can see, blatantly stolen from Monster Kid Online. It’s a neat little vintage horror zine in the style of Forrest J. Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland, and they have a ton of awesome desktop images like this one. Go check ’em out, so I won’t feel quite as bad about stealing their pretty picture…)
At any rate… Obviously, I’m a fan. There’s just something about that face. I’ve got a Rondo Hatton t-shirt (essentially that top picture of him with the contrast turned all the way up), and I seldom wear it without somebody asking me who he is. Why? Well, he’s fascinatingly ugly, yes, but I think there’s more to it than that. The scary brutish qualities are somehow undercut with an element of vulnerability that draws people in. He’s one of the all-time great movie faces, and I’m always happy to let people know about him.
Now, before we get to our song for tonight, here’s two more shots of Our Hero. One, almost a Rondo glamour shot…
…and the other a rare picture capturing his playful side:
Whatta guy! No wonder they named the horror awards after him!
And what better song for The Creeper, I thought, than Radiohead’s “Creep”?
Then I listened to that clean studio version for the first time in a long time, and realized that I’ve evidently been listening to a far rawer live version for the past 18 years, one that fits with the desperate outsider vibe of Rondo’s Creeper a lot better. I haven’t quite been able to find that version on the YouTubes, but here’s one that captures the vibe a little better:
Unfortunately incomplete, but still much better. Love the harshness of the guitars. Now, THAT’S a song that’ll eat your face off.
But… will it eat your face off because you made an unflattering statue of it…
…and then enter into a long, slow, self-destructive spiral that ends in a messy murder-suicide? MmmmmmnnI don’t think so. For that, I think we’ve gotta go deeper. Like, maybe to Miss Amanda Palmer, and her awesomely screechy, super-creeped-out cover of the song… played on the ukelele.