Another day, another old school horror movie starring Tod Slaughter. I have to admit, seeing the number of his movies that are in this collection kind of makes me want to see some of his films that are not in this set. But that will be for another time. For now, I will focus on today’s movie, The Crimes Of Stephen Hawke, and see what kind of performance Tod Slaughter will give us today.
The plot: At a BBC studio, Flotsam and Jetsam are doing there act, singing a number that incorporates the latest news and their opinions on the news stories. Later, on the 100th edition of “In Town Tonight”, the host interviews a local before interviewing Tod Slaughter and discussing his films. Tod talks about how he killed people in several of his films before he begins to discuss his latest character, Stephen Hawke, and the scene dissolves to the film. Stephen Hawke is studying a house, making notes on the doors and windows, when he is approached by the young son of the house’s owner. The boy tells Stephen that he will tell his father but Stephen convinces the boy not to tell and says he will show him something but when the boy gets close, Stephen kills the boy by breaking his spine, revealing that Stephen is the mass murderer known as the Spine-Breaker. Meanwhile, Stephen’s daughter Julia stops by Stephen’s money lending business to see him but when she learns he isn’t there, she speaks with Stephen’s business partner, Joshua Trimble, and his son Matthew, who is courting Julia. After Julia leaves, Stephen returns and Joshua speaks with him for a few minutes about business matters and mentions Julia stopping by and how happy she seems. A man enters and tells Stephen that his master, Lord Brickhaven, would not be able to attend Stephen’s party that night but Stephen gets upset and demands that the man convince Lord Brickhaven to attend and to wear his emerald ring. At the party, Julia and Mathew dance several times, while Stephen speaks with Brickhaven about their respective treasures. Later, Stephen speaks with Joshua about Julia and Mathew when they are approached by Miles Archer, who speaks privately with Stephen about courting Julia. Some time later, Brickhaven goes to get some air on the terrace outside and Stephen kills him, then quickly leaves as Brickhaven’s cries have alerted the other guests. As everyone heads outside to look at the body, Brickhaven’s servant blames himself for bringing him here and says that Stephen is the Spine-Breaker, but nobody believes him. The next day, Stephen is examining a statue he purchased while Joshua is discussing what happens and when Stephen gets upset and breaks the statue, Joshua wonders if Stephen might be the killer. He heads back to his office and shares his concerns with Mathew but Mathew tells him it is nonsense. That night, Stephen sneaks into Joshua’s bedroom to kill him and briefly reconsiders it but when Joshua wakes up and sees him, Stephen quickly kills him. The next morning, Mathew goes to see Stephen and tells him about his father’s death. He also tells him about a confession that Joshua had written and requested buried with him and Stephen worries that the letter reveals him to be the Spine-Breaker. Stephen heads to the morgue to grab the letter but when the body sits up, he believes Joshua has come back to life to get revenge. He begs mercy for killing him but the figure removes the sheet to reveal Mathew, who wanted to confirm that Stephen was the killer. Because of his love for Julia, Stephen says he will spare Stephen’s life until after he buries his father and says he should run. Stephen returns home and tells his servant Nathaniel to get the cart ready and he leaves, telling Julia he has business to attend to. Mathew heads to Stephen’s house after the funeral and speaks with Julia and when he learns that Stephen left, he says he must go after him, not telling Julia why, but says he will return to her. Stephen and Nathaniel stay at an inn but the next morning, they see Mathew on the street and quickly leave. Back in London, Archer has learned that Stephen is the Spine-Breaker and approaches Julia and tells her that Mathew is hunting Stephen for revenge, only to end up being hunted by the law in return. Julia begs him not to arrest Mathew and he says he won’t so long as she marries him. In another town, Mathew sees Stephen and heads to the inn to kill him but Stephen got away and left Nathaniel to distract him. As Stephen tries to get away, he runs into a thief and decides to take the thief’s place in jail. Mathew eventually gives up on finding Stephen and leaves, after which Nathaniel finds out Stephen is in jail and goes to see him. Nathaniel tells Stephen about Julia marrying archer and Stephen breaks out of jail to stop the wedding. Mathew returns to London and speaks with Julia, telling her that he never found her father but his love for her never changed. Mathew then goes to see Archer and says that the Spine-Breaker is dead and when Archer panics, Stephen accuses him of blackmailing Julia into marrying him but Archer says there is nothing he can do about it. After Mathew leaves, Stephen shows up and kills Archer. Mathew returns to see Julia but while they are talking, the police show up to arrest Mathew for Archer’s murder. Stephen appears and tells Julia and Mathew to leave, then admits to the police that he is the Spine-Breaker. Stephen kills one of the police and heads up to the roof, where he throws some of the bricks from the roof at the police but as he grabs a large slab to throw at them, the roofing breaks out from under his feet and he falls to the ground below, staying alive long enough to say a few words to Julia before he dies.
This was a pretty funny movie to watch. Tod Slaughter did a good job in his role and actually played his part similar to Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde in how he would flip between being Stephen Hawke and the Spine-Breaker. Eric Portman (Mathew), Marjorie Taylor (Julia), and D.J. Williams (Joshua) were also good in his role. The story was good although how the movie started, with the whole behind the scenes view of the radio, was a little odd. I also didn’t like how they gave away that Stephen Hawke was the killer right away. There weren’t really any special effects in the movie but the film quality wasn’t the greatest, but I can’t tell if that is just the copy used for this set. A good, short movie to watch.
Rating: 3 out of 5