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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
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 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
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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