Cast & Crew
Photos & Videos
As impoverished Greenwich Village artist Marcel de Lange is about to sell one of his sculptures to a wealthy man named Samuels, vitriolic art critic F. Holmes Harmon denounces the piece as "tripe," scaring off Samuels. Despondent and broke, Marcel walks to a bridge, intent on suicide. When he notices a man struggling at the river's edge, however, he rushes to the rescue. Marcel drags the man from the water and, awestruck by his hulking, hideous appearance, takes him home. The next morning, the newly inspired Marcel asks his grateful guest if he will pose for a bust, and the surprised man agrees. Soon after Marcel begins work on the bust, the man slips out and brutally kills a prostitute. When the coroner reveals that the woman's spine was broken, homicide detective Lt. Larry Brooks comments that the murderer's methods resemble those of The Creeper, a notorious serial killer who escaped a dragnet by diving into the river and was presumed drowned. Later, Marcel reads a newspaper account of the woman's murder and, realizing that his guest is The Creeper, declares that Harmon deserves to die for the terrible things he has written about him. At Harmon's newspaper office, meanwhile, fellow art critic Joan Medford tries unsuccessfully to convince Harmon not to print a scathing review of her boyfriend Steven Morrow's new art show. As soon as Joan leaves Harmon's office, The Creeper appears and murders the critic. Aware that Steven had fought with Harmon, Larry questions him at his studio, but Joan provides Steven with a false alibi. Looking for a story, Joan then visits Marcel, but he refuses to show her his half-finished bust of The Creeper. While Marcel is in another room, however, Joan peeks at the bust, unaware that The Creeper is watching her from a hiding place. Later, Larry, who now knows that Joan lied about Steven's alibi, asks Harmon's rival critic, Hal Ormiston, to help bait Steven by writing a searing review of his show. When Steven reads the review, in which Ormiston snidely compares his work to Marcel's, he goes to confront Ormiston at his apartment. Steven rails against Ormiston and grabs him when he starts to call the police. At that moment, Larry bursts in the room and stops Steven. Larry believes he has caught the killer until, a few moments later, he discovers Ormiston dead in the kitchen, his spine broken. Unknown to Larry, The Creeper snuck into Ormiston's apartment and killed the critic because Marcel, having also read the review, was upset. With Ormiston's murder, the newspapers announce that The Creeper is alive and print a sketch of his distinctive face. Determined to get her story, Joan returns to Marcel's and steals his sketch of the bust, which he has signed. Then, not having seen the drawing of The Creeper in the newspaper, she instructs her printer to publish a copy of it. After completing her article, Joan telephones Steven and tells him that she is sneaking the original back to Marcel's. The Creeper, meanwhile, informs Marcel that he saw Joan take the sketch, and Marcel, worried that she now knows the identity of the bust's model, sends The Creeper to kill her at Steven's, where he believes she has gone. Instead, The Creeper murders Stella, one of Steven's models, who was alone in the studio. Joan, meanwhile, startles Marcel when she appears at his door and marvels at the now completed bust. Sure that she is feigning ignorance about the model's identity, Marcel informs her about The Creeper and tells her she is about to die. At the same time, Steven goes to Joan's office and discovers the printer's copy of Marcel's sketch on her desk. Back at Marcel's, The Creeper overhears the artist inform Joan that he will turn The Creeper over to the police if they should connect him to the killer. Enraged by the artist's easy betrayal, The Creeper kills Marcel, then goes after Joan. Just as The Creeper is about to grab Joan, Steven pounds at the door, and Larry, who also saw the sketch on Joan's desk, arrives in time to shoot the murderer. Later, a relieved Joan tells Steven that she is finally ready to quit her job and marry him.
Dwight V. Babcock
Bernard B. Brown
Russell A. Gausman
John B. Goodman
Jack P. Pierce
Ronald K. Pierce
H. J. Salter
House of Horrors
House of Horrors arrived at the end of Universal's golden age of the horror film with The Creeper planned as a new "monster" for future sequels. It was not to be. Rondo Hatton, who played The Creeper, was suffering from an advanced case of acromegaly, pituitary gland disorder and died of heart failure on February 2, 1946, several weeks before the theatrical release of House of Horrors. Even if he had lived, however, Universal would not have continued The Creeper series. After House of Horrors, they sold off Hatton's final film for them, The Brute Man (1946), to the poverty row outfit, PRC Pictures. Two years later, Universal would begin parodying their greatest horror successes in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). The horror genre would not enjoy a genuine revival until The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Horror of Dracula (1958) appeared on the scene, both Hammer Studio productions which were distributed in the U.S by Warner Bros.
House of Horrors was heavily promoted in the pre-release stages as a showcase for Hatton's unusual screen presence. The promotional taglines announced, "Out of the murk of the river...Out of the clammy mist...Rises a new fiend of horror...The Creeper!" Actually, House of Horrors was NOT the film debut of The Creeper. He had already been introduced in Universal's Sherlock Holmes mystery, The Pearl of Death, in 1944, and Hatton would make a memorable impression in two more Universal movies The Jungle Captive (1945) and The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946) before he appeared in House of Horrors.
Filmed on Universal's backlot, which included a New York street and a waterfront, House of Horrors is a fast-paced, unpretentious thriller with a scene-stealing performance by Martin Kosleck as Marcel, the mad sculptor: "Soon, the whole world will recognize my genius." Kosleck later recalled in an interview that "I get more fan mail on that...I loved that part." He also confided that he won the part thanks to producer Ben Pivar who approached him on the Universal lot during work hours. "He gave me a script to study during the lunch hour for an audition. I gave a completely memorized audition and got the part immediately."
Some reports indicate that Kent Taylor was originally intended for the part of the police lieutenant Larry Brooks and that the role of Detective Tomlinson was assigned to Milburn Stone. Those roles were eventually cast with Bill Goodwin and Billy Newell, respectively. In a brief role as a prostitute who gets her back snapped in two by The Creeper, is Virginia Christine, a prolific character actress who is more famous for her Mrs. Olson character in the Folgers Coffee commercials of the sixties than her movies, which included memorable bits in High Noon (1952), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). In an interview, Christine had only vague memories of making House of Horrors but said, "I needed the money all actors need money! It was a very short scene. They had a cat following me down the street. And in order to get the cat to follow me they put some anchovies or sardines on the back of my heel! And that's all I remember about that film absolutely all!"
The Breen Office, the self-censoring arm of Hollywood that enforced the production code, had several objections to the script of House of Horrors when it was first submitted under the title of Murder Mansion. It prohibited the use of objectionable artwork in ads or excessive gruesomeness in the film pertaining to the act of murder (no "gurgling" sounds from the strangled victims). The producers were also cautioned that The Creeper could not be depicted as leering at the female victims with sexual desire. Most absurd of all was the Breen Office's warning that a "flashily dressed blonde" in one scene set on the dank waterfront could in no way suggest a prostitute.
House of Horrors was a hit with fans of the genre and even The New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther acknowledged its lowbrow appeal in some quarters: "Five corpses with broken spines litter the screen before things are cleared up. The moral appears to be that art critics had better be careful whom they criticize (film critics, happily, were not mentioned). 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 as "the Creeper," while Virginia Grey and Robert Lowery handle the romance adequately. Bill Goodwin as the detective and Martin Kosleck as the mad sculptor round out the cast."
Producer: Ben Pivar
Director: Jean Yarbrough
Screenplay: George Bricker; Dwight V. Babcock (story)
Cinematography: Maury Gertsman
Art Direction: John B. Goodman, Abraham Grossman
Film Editing: Philip Cahn
Principal Cast: Robert Lowery (Steven Morrow), Virginia Grey (Joan Medford), Bill Goodwin (Lt. Larry Brooks), Martin Kosleck (Marcel De Lange), Alan Napier (F. Holmes Harmon), Howard Freeman (Hal Ormiston), Joan Fulton (Stella McNally), Virginia Christine (Lady of the streets), Rondo Hatton (The Creeper).
by Jeff Stafford
AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Universal Horrors: The Studio's Classic Films, 1931-1946 by Michael Brunas, John Brunas and Tom Weaver (McFarland & Associates)
Horror Film Stars by Michael R. Pitts (McFarland & Associates)
House of Horrors
The working title of this film was Murder Mansion. Murder Mansion was also the working title of a 1945 "Charlie Chan" release, The Jade Mask . Although Rondo Hatton's onscreen credit reads "Introducing Rondo Hatton," House of Horrors was not Hatton's debut film. He previously had appeared in several films, including a 1944 Sherlock Holmes story, The Pearl of Death, in which he played a character named "The Hoxton Creeper" . Hatton also portrayed "The Creeper" in a late 1946 Universal picture, The Brute Man . The story of The Brute Man takes place before the action of House of Horrors. Although House of Horrors was not Hatton's last picture, he died on February 2, 1946, three weeks prior to its New York opening. Modern sources note that Kent Taylor was first cast as "Lt. Larry Brooks," and that Billy Newell replaced Milburn Stone in the role of "Det. Tomlinson." Modern sources credit Robert Murdock as property master, John Brooks as gaffer, and Ed Cushing as Hatton's stand-in.