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Film / The Brute Man

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"That's beside the point. The entire city is up in arms and the Creeper goes on killing people."
Police Commissioner Salisbury

The Brute Man is a Universal Horror B-Movie that falls under both the Thriller and Horror genres and occasionally dips into Film Noir and proto-Slasher Movie territory. It is the second Creeper film and a prequel to House Of Horrors, which was made and released mere months prior. The story sees the Creeper return to his home city after years of absence to take murderous revenge on his old university classmates for the circumstances that left him with a disfigured face. Universal's faith in the Creeper series was strong, but The Brute Man is its last entry because of the rapidly declining health and eventual death of Rondo Hatton. The Brute Man was his last film.

The Creeper series was announced on November 8, 1944 when trades such as The Hollywood Reporter and the New York Herald Tribune reported that Ben Pivar had been given the task of renewing Universal's horror stable and that the Creeper series was the foremost project. The first film of the series was to be called The House of Horrors. However, as early as December 16, the Showmen's Trade Review and others stated that the first film was to be titled The Brute Man. This name showed up as the first film to be until around July, followed by the first mention of Murder Mansion on September 7. Murder Mansion is the proto-production name for House of Horrors. It's possible that the three names were all tied to the same script, but it's also possible that there were arguments behind the scenes which film should be the first. In the end, The Brute Man became the second film, with filming starting on November 15, 1945.

On February 2, 1946, Rondo Hatton died from the progression of his acromegaly, and his failing health in the months prior affected production of The Brute Man as his scenes needed to be retaken the most by far. House of Horrors was still released on February 22, but The Brute Man was kept back. There are two (non-conflicting) stories as to why. One goes that after Hatton's death from the very thing that got him his contract, Universal worried that releasing the film would generate controversy. The other relates to the merge of Universal and International Pictures in July 1946 and the studio's new A-Movie-centric business model. The horror genre in particular had become synonymous with B-Movies and Universal rapidly got them into theaters before the merge, so The Brute Man became a prime candidate for peddling when it was still on the shelves post-merge. In any case, The Brute Man was sold to Producers Releasing Corporation in August for a little over the cost of production, $125,000, which incidentally makes it one of PRC's expensive films. PRC brought the film to theaters on October 1, 1946, after which it fell off the radar for a few decades. Today, The Brute Man is owned by Cinedigm following its acquisition of Films Around the World.

In 1930, Hal Moffat (Fred Coby) is in his final year at Hampton University and good friends with Clifford Scott (Tom Neal), Virginia Rogers (Jan Wiley), and Joan Bemis (Janelle Johnson). Because Hal is trying to woo Virginia, Clifford sabotages Hal's chemistry test. For his poor score, Professor Cushman (John Hamilton) has Hal stay that afternoon to make it up with some experiments. Furious, Hal destroys an erlenmeyer and is caught in the chemical's explosion. It damages his glands, nerves, and mind, leaving him disfigured and mentally affected. He disappears for some 15 years and returns as the Creeper (Rondo Hatton) to settle the score with everyone he holds responsible. Cushman and Joan are the first two he murders, but then the Creeper meets Helen Paige (Jane Adams), a blind piano teacher. She is kind to him and he abandons his revenge spree to spend time with her. It comes up that a surgery could give Helen sight, but that she can't afford it. The Creeper resolves to help her and breaks into Clifford's and Virginia's home, who are now married and well-to-do, to get money. Unexpectedly, Clifford fights back and the Creeper kills him after all. Having stolen Virginia's jewelry, he gifts the pieces to Helen to sell. However, the jewelry is recognized and Helen is taken to the police station. There she learns that her good friend Hal is the Creeper and ruefully cooperates with the police to set a trap for him with her as bait. All goes according to plan and for her help bringing in the murderer, Captain Donelly (Donald MacBride) and Lieutenant Gates (Peter Whitney) arrange for her surgery to be financed by the city.

The Creeper's past takes inspiration from Hatton's own history and the marketing Hollywood launched around it. Hatton was a popular student and an avid football player since his high school days, taking up coaching and sports journalism when he aged out of his prime. During World War I, Hatton fought in France and was exposed to poison gas. He got diagnosed with acromegaly during the 1920s and by 1938, when Hatton had a handful of film roles to his name, the popular story was that his acromegaly was a result of the gas exposure. Likewise, the Creeper was a popular football player in university and develops acromegaly from being caught in a chemical explosion during a laboratory assignment. A nod is made too to Universal's film history through the presence of a kind and blind musician, which, like it does the Creeper, a decade prior humanized Frankenstein's Monster in Bride of Frankenstein.

Because The Brute Man and House of Horrors were practically produced back-to-back, their credits largely overlap. The directing was handled by Jean Yarbrough, while Philip Cahn did the editing. This includes fitting several scenes of older stock footage in with the new footage. The film's touches of film noir are the contribution of Maury Gertsman.

The Brute Man was the subject of an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It is one of the episodes the writers have expressed regret over because several of the jokes are at Hatton's expense, targeting his looks and performance.

In 2023, the novel The Devil’s League was written as an homage to the classic Universal Monsters, with the character Hoxton being loosely inspired by Rondo Hatton’s character from the three movies.

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Act of True Love: The Creeper knows that if Helen could see, she likely would have been repulsed like everyone else and not befriended him. And if she would get an eye surgery, she might very well reject him after all. But she's shown him a kindness he hasn't experienced in a long time and for that, he's willing to risk losing her by getting the money together for her to pay for surgery. It's not a small amount either and requires the Creeper to abandon the plans he returned to his home city for in the first place so he can focus on getting the money.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: Helen is taken to the police station when she unknowingly fences jewelry the Creeper stole for her to pay for surgery. She is shocked to learn that her mysterious new friend is wanted by the police, but knowing him only as a polite and gentle soul, she unassumingly asks what it is that he's done. Captain Donelly bluntly answers "Murder. At wholesale. He happens to be the Creeper." Helen needs to sit down after hearing that.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: The Creeper responds positively to Helen's request to be friends, noting that she's nice to him. Helen asks if no one else is. The Creeper falls silent, which is enough of an answer to Helen.
  • Art Shift: The title card added by PRC is in the style of German Expressionism, which has no counterpart in the decor or feel of the film.
  • Blame Game: With Police Commissioner Salisbury and Mr. Parkington, the Mayor's Secretary, on their way to demand answers as to why the Creeper is still on the loose, Captain Donelly and Lieutenant Gates pretend to blame each other to create a scene in front of the visitors and prevent them from focusing their ire on Donelly alone. This gets them to leave and frees up Donelly's time for the investigation.
  • Bloodless Carnage: The Creeper kills by strangulation, so by far most of the film's violence is therefore bloodless. However, the Creeper himself gets shot in the thigh at close range and while it hurts him, it barely incapacitates him and there's only one single shot in which he's bleeding. It's not a lot, though Captain Donelly earlier indicated that there was a significant blood trail at the crime scene.
  • Blind and the Beast: The Creeper is used to rejection and repulsion for his disfigurement, until he runs into the blind Helen. She insists that she can see who he really is inside and that what she sees is a gentle soul misunderstood by too many. This is a fair analysis for what she knows of him, as the Creeper has eagerly met her kindness with his own. The thing is that the Creeper is not actually a good person and lashes out with lethal violence the moment someone poses a problem. And the moment Helen learns of this and helps the police on their manhunt, she becomes a problem.
  • Concealing Canvas: Virginia hides her jewels in a wall safe hidden behind a painting of some flowers in her bedroom. It is one of several paintings in the well-decorated room, so the hiding spot is a good one.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: Jimmy is convinced that the mysterious customer who secretively placed an order at the grocery store is actually the wanted murderer known as the Creeper. When he has to make the delivery, he takes the opportunity to snoop around and ascertain his suspicions. Yet the Creeper spots him before he spots the Creeper and puts the most definite of ends to Jimmy's citizen's investigation.
  • Death Glare: Before his disappearance, the volatile Hal could conjure up an ominous glare if physical violence, for the time being, was not an option. As the Creeper, he kills with unsettling indifference, but in one case, he does pull a look that could kill: when he learns that Helen betrayed him.
  • Dramatic Sit-Down: Helen has only been treated with kindness, concern, and candidness by the Creeper. She values his visits and believes him to be good person that at most has made a misstep to get in trouble with a bad crowd. When she learns that that crowd are the police trying to capture the Creeper because he's a multi-count murderer, she needs to sit down to let that reality sink in.
  • Dutch Angle: The Creeper is sometimes in frame with the camera aiming up from the side to add an intimidation factor. The Dutch angle is used in the opening scene as he calmly evades the police, when he notices Jimmy peaking through his window, when he approaches to murder Jimmy, and when he walks over to Helen's apartment to lethally repay her for her betrayal.
  • Emerging from the Shadows: The Creeper hides behind some bushes until Joan has seen off her guests. When she's alone, he calls her over while remaining concealed by shadows. Only when he's gotten her attention by imparting that he's Hal does he step into the light. With his face as it is, Joan refuses to believe he's Hal and is murdered for her rejection.
  • Enter Stage Window:
    • With the police hot on his trail, the Creeper climbs up the fire escape and enters an open window from which piano music flows. The pianist is Helen and she befriends the Creeper. After that, he twice uses the door to visit her, but he's on the run from the police again the fourth time. To keep them off his trail, he uses the window once more. His fifth visit is also by window, this time because he intends to murder her, so it's the more fitting way to get to her.
    • After finding a policeman stationed at the front door, side doors locks, and regular windows locked, the Creeper finds that one basement window of the Scotts' residence has been forgotten about. The confrontation with his old classmates as well as the robbery can therefore continue.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: The Creeper is still looking into getting money for Helen's surgery when he hears a paperboy shout about how a blind woman is now helping the police catch the Creeper. The words hit hard, so he buys himself a newspaper to ensure there's no misunderstanding and when he's sure, he heads over to Helen's apartment to kill her for her treachery. But this was all a setup for Helen's true betrayal: a police ambush with herself as the bait. The cops jump out of their hiding places before the Creeper can lay a finger on her and overpower him. With the danger averted, Helen needs a moment to come to terms with her guilt.
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: A paperboy goes around announcing a special edition newspaper published after Helen comes in contact with the police and realizes her odd trespassing friend is a wanted murderer. The newspapers are quick to sensationalize the blind woman's friendship with the Creeper and the ways in which she can help get him arrested. This is all part of a setup to make the Creeper believe that Helen has betrayed him so he'll come over to murder her while the police is waiting for him.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: For the duration of Hal's walk when he intrudes on Virginia's end-of-the day grooming, his face and in particular his eyes are hidden in the shadow cast by his hat. Along with his spiteful calm, it makes him a disconcerting presence.
  • Freak Lab Accident: In utter rage that Clifford has misled him about the answers to the chemistry test that day and that Clifford makes a show of taking Victoria on a date while he is stuck making up for the test with an assignment, Hal throws an erlenmeyer he's working with to the ground. The chemicals inside generate an explosion in which Hal gets caught. The initial injuries are bad enough to require his head to be fully bandaged, but the chemicals also affect his glands and nerves, meaning his disfiguration continues and he'll never have his old looks back.
  • Fresh Clue: The Creeper takes the secret entrance out of his hideout when he hears the police coming. His opportunity to get away is narrow and he can't afford to turn off the stove with which he was heating water for coffee. The stove tips off the police duo that the Creeper can't be far away and they order over more men to comb the waterfront, but the murderer manages to elude them.
  • Freudian Slip: After the police commissioner chews him out to distract the city representatives, Lieutenant Gates says that he'll "pass the buc[ket]—the word to the rest of the department."
  • The Ghost: The mayor twice sends over Police Commissioner Salisbury and Mr. Parkington to talk with Donelly on his behalf and has a statement of his published in the newspaper, but he doesn't play any in-person role in the film.
  • Gratuitous Laboratory Flasks: The front of the university's chemistry lab is filled with all kinds of glassware and labelled bottles, even though the area is so small at most two people could work there. Hal has to perform an experiment at the table in the center where all manners of glassware stand ready, but he only seems to need four or so pieces and the ones he does use he doesn't use the way they should be used.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Mr. Haskins is an elderly man who can't run his store on his own and therefore has hired Jimmy to help out. Jimmy is the cheery sort, but easily distracted, which tests Haskins's patience. He gets harsh in ordering Jimmy to shut up and get to work.
  • Healthcare Motivation: Upon learning that Helen could have sight with a surgery that costs 2000-3000 at minimum, the Creeper resolves to bring the money together for her. His new goal overrides his old goal of payback on the people he holds responsible for his disfigurement. Taking inspiration from his earlier theft of a brooch from a pawnshop, the Creeper steals expensive jewelry from one of the people that wronged him for Helen to sell.
  • Home Base: While going after his old classmates, the Creeper takes up residence at waterfront shack 23. It's an inconspicuous, simple one-room living space that provides all he needs. Just to be sure, he has made a secret entrance in the back of the room by pushing two hinged boards aside. It comes in handy twice: once to ambush a snooping delivery boy and once to escape the police when they come looking for the delivery boy.
  • Hot Pursuit: The films opens with the entire police force being directed to the last known location of the Creeper, a high-profile murderer. Despite all of the cars and motorcycles involved, the Creeper evades them and kills another person. The next day, the police spot the Creeper again and again go all in on the chase. They track him to an apartment complex, but though nobody dies that night, the police again fail to apprehend the Creeper.
  • Jerk Jock: Hal was a star football player in university, but a sore loser and very much not a nice guy. He had a bad temper, which was a crucial factor in both reputations, but he also was an overall snake. Despite that (or possibly because) his close friends Clifford and Virginia were an item, he wanted to win over Virginia and rather than be upfront about it, he went about it by trickery backed up by intimidation tactics. When he thought he could reel Virginia in, he started to taunt Clifford by boasting about his success, which ultimately led to the circumstances that left him disfigured when Clifford finally found a means to retaliate. Rather than reflect on his life choices thus far, Hal disappeared and turned murderous.
  • Last-Minute Hookup: Helen and Lieutenant Gates have only two scenes together and they occur in the final ten minutes. Their second scene together is the closing scene, and without any build-up Gates begins charming Helen.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Captain Donelly and Lieutenant Gates together go check if the Creeper is hiding at waterfront shack 23. The Creeper notices them in time and escapes through a secret door. When Donelly and Gates enter, they find the stove on and Jimmy's fresh corpse in the corner. Despite the clear threat, Donelly sends Gates away to get some men and search the waterfront while he himself continues to look though the Creeper's possessions for clues. Fortunately for Donelly, the Creeper doesn't feel like taking risks and stays in hiding.
  • Love Triangle: Clifford Scott, Virginia Rogers, and Hal Moffat were a well-liked trio of friends in university who also hung out a lot with Joan Bemis. Clifford and Virginia eventually fell in love, while Joan developed feelings for Hal. This could've gone neatly, but Hal was oblivious to Joan's feelings and himself fancied Virginia. With trickery and disregard for basic etiquette, he tried to wedge himself between her and Clifford and it literally blew up in his face when Clifford retaliated. Following his disfigurement, Hal left the city for years and his return is one motivated by vengeance. Joan and Clifford end up dead, Virginia a widow, and Hal in jail.
  • Lured into a Trap:
    • The Creeper has Virginia cornered in her bedroom when Clifford comes home and calls for her. He instructs her to call her husband up to the room, which she does because the Creeper is a former friend, appears non-violent, and has only expressed interest in monetary gain. Virginia awaits Cliff at her vanity, while the Creeper hides behind the door to ensure that Cliff won't immediately run off to the policeman outside. The Creeper likely would've kept to his word if he'd been allowed to leave with Virginia's jewelry, but the confrontation lethally escalates when Cliff pulls a gun on him.
    • At the police station, Helen finally learns that her mysterious new friend is the Creeper, a multi-count murderer. Despite the friendship and trust between them, Helen helps the police lure the Creeper into a trap. The first part of the trap is getting the newspapers to publish about how Helen is going to help the police. The Creeper is sure to read it, which is sure to make him want to kill Helen. Helen therefore is the bait and the police are hidden all over and around her apartment to catch the Creeper when he arrives. It goes off without a hitch.
  • Mean Boss: Mr. Haskins begins his workday not by greeting his employee Jimmy, who does greet him, but by berating him for listening to the radio instead of working. Any of Jimmy's attempts to strike up a conversation he swats away in increasing agitation until he rushes him out of the door on a delivery. It's only when Jimmy fails to return to the store that Haskins reconsiders their exchange that morning and calls the police to check the delivery's address.
  • Meaningful Gift: The Creeper stalks the streets and comes across a luxurious costume brooch in a window display. It depicts a bird and is fitted with rhinestones and molded glass. At this point, the Creeper has only met Helen once and although she showed him kindness, the police cut their talk short. Still, the moment he sees the brooch he thinks of her and that it'll make a fine gift if he'd go back, which he does that very evening. It's because she doesn't respond when he holds up the gift that he learns that she's blind. Nonetheless, when he hands it over she can feel that it is a quality piece of jewelry and is delighted.
  • The Mentally Disturbed: Hal was always a violent, ill-tempered, and petty person, but everybody, from his old classmates to the police, agrees that he only became a killer because of either trauma or because the chemicals that caused his disfigurement also affected his brain. To a limited extent, they pity him for it.
  • Mood Whiplash: All scenes between the Creeper and Helen are pleasant and heartwarming, enough so that one momentarily forgets that the Creeper is a callous murderer. This is true during their second meeting when the Creeper gives Helen a lovely brooch as a gratitude gift. Right when she pins it to her blouse, the scene cuts to newspaper shots highlighting the murder on the pawnbroker the Creeper committed to get that brooch.
  • Morality Pet: Despite that they met when the Creeper burgled his way into her apartment and vaguely threatened her, Helen never fears him and gives him the benefit of doubt when he admits to being chased by some men. She helps him escape them and the Creeper returns later to thank her. They strike up a friendship, which is the only positive interaction the Creeper has with anyone in the film. The best anyone else experiences from the Creeper is intimidation, yet he goes out of his way to care for Helen, even taking some risks to finance her eye surgery.
  • Music for Courage: Helen was playing piano moments before she befriended the Creeper. When he leaves and she hears gunshots and other noises of struggle, which she believes to be from the Creeper as he tries to escape gangsters, she can't do anything to help him and instead resumes playing piano to keep herself calm and hopeful.
  • Mysterious Note: Because he can't afford to be seen, the Creeper does his shopping by shoving a list of things he needs and a delivery address under the door of a grocery store at night. Mr. Haskins thinks nothing of it because a customer is a customer, but his employee Jimmy correctly but futilely suspects that the note's writer is the Creeper.
  • Newspaper Backstory: While going through the Creeper's stuff, Donelly finds a bundle of newspaper clippings that are of major benefit to the investigation. The one article the camera zooms in on is titled "Popular Trio" and shows a photo of three former Hampton University students: Clifford Scott, Virginia Rogers, and Hal Moffat. By process of elimination, the police deduce that Hal is the Creeper and when questioned the other two have information that convincingly outlines a motive.
  • Oblivious to Love: Hal never figured out that Joan fancied him, or perhaps he didn't care because he had his eyes on Virginia.
  • Origins Episode: By the time of The Brute Man, the Creeper or a variant thereof had appeared in four films. He's always a murder-prone brute, but only The Brute Man gives him a reason for and a plan behind his lethal mannerisms. The film also addresses his unusual looks and makes it the result of a freak lab accident.
  • Plot Hole: The Creeper's face is disfigured, which is what drives the plot, leads the Creeper's characterization, and influences the interactions he has with others. Yet no one he passes by on the streets, even if he buys a newspaper from them, ever reacts to his face.
    • Because he's just a very unattractive human being. People look at him and say "Yeah, he's ugly, but he's not 'inhuman'. I've no movie star myself, so who am I to judge?" The guy selling him a newspaper probably has half a dozen regular customers nearly as unattractive as the Creeper. The Creeper is basing his behavior on how he 'thinks' he is going to perceived by others.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The police have the Creeper in their sights when he enters an apartment through an open window. Helen, the woman living there, is blind and is sympathetic to the Creeper when he tells her some men are after him. With the police at the door, Helen instructs him to hide while she tries to throw them off his trail. As per the Hot Pursuit doctrine, the police barge in in search for the Creeper and do not specifically identify themselves, which wouldn't be all that necessary if Helen could only see their uniforms. But she can't, and she specifically doesn't say this to the men because it allows her to honestly answer, when questioned, that she didn't see anyone. As a result of the miscommunication, the Creeper gets away and goes on to kill three more people before he's eventually arrested.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Of the five specified murders the Creeper commits, the one that is most telling because it isn't motivated by revenge or necessity is the murder on the pawnbroker. The man is running his store when the Creeper wants to purchase a brooch. The Creeper agrees with the price, but he needs the brooch now and doesn't have the money, so by his reckoning the pawnbroker should let him take the brooch and trust him to return with the money tomorrow. When the pawnbroker tells him no and tries to take the brooch back, the Creeper murders him. The pawnbroker was an obstacle and he dealt with it without a second thought. And it was all just to get a good gift to thank someone else for helping him.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: During one of the Creeper's visits to Helen the topic of her blindness and a possible cure comes up, and with that the Creeper's admission that he worries what she'll think of him if she could see him. Helen tries to reassure him by asking if she may touch his face right now, but this provokes the Creeper to leave Helen's apartment that instant. Later, he stands in front of the mirror and considers his face, which culminates in him angrily smashing the mirror.
  • Revealing Reflection: The Creeper sneaks into the Scotts' home without being seen or heard and makes it all the way to the bedroom where Virginia is seated at her vanity. She only notices him when she looks up from doing her nails and spots him in the door opening. For the first part of their confrontation, the camera remains on the mirror to maintain the surreal eeriness of the Creeper's intrusion.
  • Scream Discretion Shot: For the murder on Joan Bemis, the camera pans away as all the audience gets to go on is her horrified scream.
  • Sex Sells: Jane Adams's Helen is a kind-hearted, blind, piano teacher who is only not an ingenue because of her confidence and independence. She dresses between cute and conservative and becomes the Creeper's morality pet. Yet the posters all depict Helen in a sultry nightgown befitting a vamp, showing off legs and shoulders. In regards to the Creeper, one poster also luridly proclaims "No woman safe from his crushing arms..." which does not represent his motives or selection of victims at all.
  • Sinister Suffocation: The Creeper's favored murder method is strangulation, which he does with such strength that its effect is near-immediate and the necks don't necessarily stay whole.
  • Snooping Little Kid: Jimmy is a naïve college-age youngster with a strong interest for the world of criminals and detectives. The ongoing Creeper-centric news items have his attention and so he leaps to the conclusion that the order list secretively delivered to the grocery store must've come from the Creeper. His boss thinks it's nonsense, but because Jimmy has to deliver the order anyway, he has some time to snoop around at the address. It turns out he's right and it is the Creeper who placed the order, but Jimmy lethally fails to keep himself hidden while trying to catch a glimpse of the killer. The boy's disappearance prompts his boss to reconsider his suspicions and call the police to give them the story and the address. That afternoon, Jimmy's corpse is a solid clue to the police that they've found the Creeper's hideout.
  • Socialite: Joan Bemis is introduced while she sees her guests off after a well-received fancy party. She's invited herself for lunch the next morning and evidently lives an opulent single life. The headline upon her murder even identifies her as a socialite.
  • Sore Loser: Clifford describes Hal as having been a sore loser who would strike back with a vengeance if he didn't come out on top.
  • Spinning Paper: The film relies on a remarkably high count of newspaper shots, each regarding developments in the Creeper case. Due to the high count, some of the filler articles are repeated.
    • The first occurs in response to the murder on Joan and shows the front page of the Transcript Journal with the headline "Back Breaker Claims Second Victim". The sub-headlines read "Socialite Joan Bemis Meets Same Fate as Professor Cushman" and "Police Puzzled as to Motives for Crimes". It's placed amidst articles on various subjects: "Mayor Outlines New Project of Administration", "City Transfers Bond Millions to Sinking Fund", "Move to Ban Office Mergers Is Begun", "Beaches Lure Record Crowds", "Ballot Awaited Today After Amendments", "More Money Needed for City Courts", "Banker's Made to Explain Shortage", and "Jensen Plans to Cut Charity Cost in Year".
    • The second occurs the day after the Creeper only just escapes the police and shows the front page of The Daily Tribune with the headline "Major Charges Police Laxity in Creeper Killings". The sub-headline reads "Police Commissioner Puts Capt. Donelly of Homicide on Spot". It's placed amidst articles on various subjects: "End to Wildcat Strike Sought", "Meteorite Falls Near Baby", "New Library Dedicated", "Civic Leaders Plan Charity Drive", "Philanthropist Laid to Rest", "City Aide Nabbed as Tipsy Driver, Denies Accident", and "Bill Aids Owner on Foreclosure".
    • The third occurs in response to the murder on Jimmy and shows the front page of the Record Herald with the headline "Grocery Boy Slain by the Creeper!". The sub-headline reads "Had Delivered Food to Monster's Shack on Waterfront". It's placed amidst articles on various subjects: "Cabinet Crisis Causes Return", "2 Boys Rescued as Hero Swims 60 Feet in River", "Government Cost Cuts to Be Urged", "Twins Complete Recruit Training", "Man Wanted Here in Safe Thefts Held in New York", "Harbord Urges Plant Renewal", "Federal Reserve Reports Changed", and "4 Drownings Sunday's Toll, Seven Rescued".
    • The fourth occurs in response to the murder on Jimmy and shows the front page of The Daily Record Post with the headline "Creeper Murders Terrorize City". The sub-headline reads "Citizens Clamor for Action on Unsolved Crimes". It's placed amidst articles on various subjects: "Suspension Faced in Oil Scandal", "Committee Approves Nominee", "Conference on Current Problems", "Governor Returns", "Agency Order Bans Use of Coupons", "Survey on Pollution Advocated", and "No Precedent for Handling Certificates".
    • The fifth occurs in response to the murder on Jimmy and shows the front page of The Star Dispatch with the headline "Boy Murder Clues May Lead to Creeper". The sub-headline reads "Waterfront Shack Tells Mute Story of Depraved Life". It's placed amidst articles on various subjects: "Chinese Money Dips in Canton", "Troops Fire on Indian Riot Mob", "Lightning Bolt Kills Two, Hurts Several Others", "Two Suspects Held on Fraud Charges", "Dismissal Move to Force Pay Cut", and "Boss Sanity Trial Jury Is Complete".
    • The sixth occurs after the Creeper murders the pawnbroker and shows the front page of The Daily Record Post with the headline "Creeper Slays Pawnbroker—Vanishes". The sub-headline reads "Brutal Murder Apparently Without Motive". It's placed amidst articles on various subjects: "Council to Vote on Park Plan", "Tax Boost Foreseen", "New 'De Luxe' Price Gouge Dodge Fought", "Servicemen Appointed", "Airlines Express Miles Show Growth", "Plumbers Root for Grease Can", "'Casual Labor' Rules Clarified by Official", "Grain Shares Top Dull Season of Stock Market", "Record Set in Flight of Airship", and "Job Survey Is Nearing Completion".
    • The seventh occurs after the Creeper murders the pawnbroker and shows the front page of the Transcript Journal with the headline "Mystery in Pawnbroker Murder". The sub-headline reads "Robbery Not Motive Say Police". It's placed amidst articles on various subjects: "Priests Battle Seminary Blaze, 11 Firemen Hurt", "Baby Mastodon's Bones Dug Up in Bloomfield Hills", "Stevedore Seeks Damages in Dock Fire", "Contests Delay Choice of New City Chairman", "Sugar Shares Top Dull Season of Stock Market", "Limited Farm Bill Favored", "Roads, Labor Reach Accord on Rail Wage", and "Auto Mishaps and Drownings Top Death List".
    • The eighth occurs after the Creeper murders the pawnbroker and shows the front page of The Daily Leader with the headline "Mayor in Ultimatum to Police". The sub-headline reads "Demands Capture of Creeper in 24 Hours "Or Else"". It's placed amidst articles on various subjects: "New Warnings Reported Sent to O'Connells", "Police Heroes Are Honored", "Chicago Building Wrecked by Blast", "Grand Jury Probe of County Flood, Control Dams Due", "Commuter Rate Increase Denied", "Mastick Hints Slash Despite Berry's Stand", and "Holds Against Commutation Rate Increase".
    • The ninth occurs once Helen resolves to aid the police and shows the front page of The Daily Chronicle with the headline "Girl Tips Off Police on "Creeper"". The sub-headline reads "Blind Piano Teacher Gives Detectives Clue to Fiend". It's placed amidst articles on various subjects: "2-Year Old Girl Killed by Auto in Crossing Street", "Muny Soccer Body Resigns from U.S.F.A", "Man Knocked Down, Killed in Traffic Quarrel", "Woman Found Dead, Fire Murder Victim", "Prison for Eloping with Sister-in-Law", "City Aide Nabbed As Tipsy Driver, Denies Accident", and "3 Named to Fix Liability Costs".
    • The tenth occurs once Helen resolves to aid the police and shows the front page of The Star Dispatch with the headline "Blind Girl Confesses Friendship with "Creeper" Killer". The sub-headline reads ""He Was So Nice to Me" Sobs Sightless Piano Teacher". It's placed amidst articles on various subjects: "French Pianist at Art Exhibition", "Bandits Named as Hinckley and Amboy Raiders", "New Tax Bill May Be Needed", "Victory Sighted in Fight Against...", and "Ballot Awaited Today After Amendments".
    • The eleventh occurs once Helen resolves to aid the police and shows the front page of the Daily Press with the headline "Blind Girl Tells All About "Creeper"". The sub-headline reads "Strange Friendship Aids Police in Manhunt". It's placed amidst articles on various subjects: "Police Heroes Are Honored", "2 Boys Rescued as Hero Swims 60 Feet in River", "Holds Against Commutation Rate Increase", "Chicago Building Wrecked by Blast", "Man Wanted Here in Safe Thefts Held in New York", and "Praises Work, Makes Charges on L.R.T. Claim".
  • Sports Hero Backstory: The Creeper, as Hal, was a star football player back when he was a student at Hampton University and is counted as one of the best ever to come from that university. A particularly celebrated match occurred in his final year against Rensler University, which Hampton won 21 to 7. Hal was responsible for three touchdowns, many broken-field runs, and another three times he converted for extra points. All in all, he was given near-full credit for the victory that day.
  • Stock Footage: The opening scenes feature many police cars and motorcycles rolling out, all of which were shot for an older film. The same goes for the bird's-eye view scenes during the football game. The intro footage of the Creeper's walking shadow are recycled from House of Horrors.
  • Theme Naming: During their second meeting, the Creeper gives his name as Hal and with a hint of amusement Helen gives her name.
  • Threat Backfire: After the murder on the pawnbroker, the mayor pulls a strong leader act by having the newspapers publish how he demands the arrest of the Creeper within 24 hours "or else." This does not amuse Police Captain Donelly or any of his men, so Donelly and Gates await the inevitable follow-up visit by Police Commissioner Salisbury and Mr. Parkington, the Mayor's Secretary, by tauntingly playing cards. Donelly lets the two threaten him and when they're done, he tells them that they're right and that since he has failed to meet the mayor's demand, they can take over from here. They drop the bluster, as none of them wants to be saddled with the responsibility for the volatile case. Donelly had surmised as much and gets them out of the door with relative ease.
  • Totally Radical: Helen's young piano pupil, Dorothy Obringer, isn't interested in learning to play the classics. She wants to master boogie-woogie because "it really sends [her]." And in regards to her practice at home, Dorothy assures Helen that she'll be "right in the groove." Mrs. Obringer clarifies to Helen that Dorothy takes after her father, who plays "hot trumpet" in the Firemen's Band.
  • Tranquil Fury: The Creeper gets his hands on one of the extra edition newspapers revealing that Helen is now working with the police to get him behind bars. Helen was the only person to show the Creeper kindness in a long time and he has gone out of his way to repay her by getting money for her to have eye surgery. His hate-filled face when he's done reading is the only cue that he decides then and there to murder Helen.
  • Villain Protagonist: The Creeper is an alternatingly vengeful and callous murderer who doesn't need more than his bare hands to leave a corpse. He is also the character the story revolves around and whose backstory informs the plot. Without excusing his murders, the narrative sympathizes with him and the unenviable events that made him the Creeper.
  • Window Watcher:
    • The Creeper walks past the collegiate cafe of Hampton University just as the students are celebrating a football victory. Reminiscing about his own student days and mentally preparing for the confrontation with his old classmates after already having murdered his former chemistry professor, the Creeper stops in front of the window and stares inside. His eerie demeanor and unsettling face draw the students' attention one by one until the Creeper lets them be and walks on.
    • Jimmy is convinced that the unseen customer who has secretively ordered groceries is the murderous Creeper that's all over the news. Once he's delivered the goods at waterfront shack 23 and not gotten even a glimpse at the customer, he sneaks around and finds a window to peer inside through. Because the window is dirty and the light dim, the Creeper notices him first, sneaks around too, and murders Jimmy.
  • You Did the Right Thing: Helen feels awful about her role in the Creeper's arrest because he trusted her. The cops assure her that she did the right thing because he would've gone on taking more lives.