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Tod Slaughter - A Profile

by Dale Pierce

August 2005

For films starring Tod Slaughter
on (re)Search my Trash
click here !

 

For Tod Slaughter's biography
click here !

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Born in England in 1885, Tod Slaughter went from stage to film and seemed forever placed in the role of screen villain. Though never as famous as Karloff, Chaney or Lugosi, he indeed held his own in the world of scream cinema, where long after his death, there are still people out there who love his films. Much can be found about him on the web and in various printed fanzines.

As a villain he was one of the best. A well-built, articulate man who could command attention just with a few words or motions, both in real-life and in front of the camera. He was one of the most easy-going of individuals when being himself, but absolutely repulsive when acting, there was a certain arrogance about him in his roles, a smug, smirking quality that made him the man moviegoers loved to hate.

During his long career he seemed to specialize in saving poor-quality scripts and bad movies. We will look at a few of them here, as we explore his work and life in condensed form.

One of his prized roles was that of Sweeny Todd, long before the musical of the same title. In this film the plot remains much the same, though no one breaks into song at the most dramatic moments. A barber kills people by cutting their throats in a special chair and sends their bodies to be made into meat pies. The script was so-so, by both past standards and modern ones, but in this, Tod's portrait of Todd to make a pun, was utterly psychotic. There are times with today's crowd where the viewers become so stunned by his acting they do not know whether to laugh or cry, much as with Anthony Hopkins and his famous Hannibal Lector many decades later. Clearly, he saved what could have been a disaster of a film here and turned it into a mini cult classic.

Likewise, Slaughter's villain, "The Wolf" made what would have been an otherwise illogical and silly horror film in Face At The Window. Instead, it has been regarded as a cult classic among some of the fans in the genre.

The story revolves around a string of murders in Paris where the victims see a monster leering in the window, hear the howl of a wolf and are then stabbed to death from behind while they focus on the face in front of them. The plot itself is not bad, but the script left a lot to be desired and the way the killer was trapped at the end bordered on ridiculous, yet this talented actor made it work.

Even with some of the absurdities abounding in Face At the Window, Slaughter saved the piece. His arrogance, his split personality (aristocratic criminal by day/snickering psychopath at night, not so much a case of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly but rather The Bad, The Worse & The Most Vile), his contempt for the heroes trying to trap him and his own folly which causes him to confess at the end, before being killed, remain worth a look, as the film is still available on video and possibly DVD. His makeup, hair-style and clothing make him look like the devil incarnate or possibly a mutated goat created by Dr. Moreau. Viewers hate him the minute he swaggers across the screen and keep hating him right to the end.

Other film roles abound. Slaughter may be seen in Murder In The Red Barn, Murder At Scotland Yard, The Greed Of William Hart, Never Too Late and other projects, more often than not as the hated heel who gets his in the end.  A web search will turn up his complete biography, while more detailed reviews of his films, some praiseworthy, others not nearly as flattering as my article here, may be found as well.

Slaughter died a long time ago, but his talent may still be seen and his often repeated role of villain have made him an integral part of any horror film list of stars.

 

© by Dale Pierce


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directed by
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written by
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starring
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