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December 23, 2010

The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Or, How The Mike Got His Slaughter Back)

Look, I've always been honest with you, Midnight Warriors.  Sure, there was that one time when I mentioned loving Day of the Animals, only to realize like two months later that I hadn't seen Day of the Animals yet and was actually thinking about Grizzly, but that wasn't dishonesty, it was stupidity.  So I'm gonna be totally up front with you all here, because you deserve it.

I like to think that I'm an expert on certain things.  Things like.....oh...I don't know....HORROR MOVIES.  And things like people who star in horror movies.  And things like classic horror movies.  I mean, I've spent decades studying everything I can about movies, connecting filmographies in my mind, and collecting as many pieces of cinematic dread as is humanly possible for my own perusal.  So when Joe Monster of From Beyond Depraved asked me to participate in his first ever Blogathon - The Tod Slaughter Blogathon - I was a) excited to join in to support one of my favorite horror hounds,  and  b) Wondering who the heck Tod Slaughter is.


Seriously, I know.  Stop looking at me like that.

I....I'm not sure how this happened.  I've made horror, not to mention cinema in general, my passion.  I've thought about it, read about it, or (most often) watched it every freakin' day.  And yet here is a respected star of early horror cinema, and I've never even heard of him.  Truthfully, it made me flat out mad at myself.

So, after looking up the name of Tod Slaughter to find out who he even was, I peered upon his IMDB page.  My eyes were as wide as a kid at the Christmas tree the night before Christmas - because I didn't know what any of this stuff was! Heck, I didn't even own any of his movies.  That's saying something.  Name an actor or actress that anyone's ever heard of, and I probably own a movie they're in...just not this one.  But what to my wondering eyes should appear? The Demon Barber of Fleet Street! I've heard of that!

And so it came to pass that, by the grace of Netflix, I sat down with a copy of The Demon Barber of Fleet Street while wrapping Christmas presents on a chilly Iowa evening.  By this point I'd read a bit about Mr. Slaughter - I now knew that he was a star of stage and screen who was most known as a diabolical villain - so I knew him when he came on screen....and I instantly knew that I'd been wronged but whatever force conspired to hide Mr. Slaughter from me.

Of course, my experience with the Sweeney Todd story previously consisted of ads for the Johnny Depp film and the Ben Kingsley HBO version from the late '90s, so I wasn't too comfortably in my element.  What made me feel at home, however, was the tone of the film.  This felt like something I'd have seen Karloff or Lugosi in via one of those 50 Movies on 12 Discs Mill Creek DVD sets, and I loved it for that.  I wasn't surprised to read that director George King was a "quota-quickie" filmmaker - meaning he produced films quicker than you can say Jack Robinson - nor was I surprised that King and Slaughter collaborated on 14 films and plenty of shorts and TV episodes over a 20 year span.  The film wasn't anything extraordinary, but it was certainly a charming cheapie.

Then there was the star, Slaughter himself.  He chews the screen like few actors I've seen, and his evil grin and staged mannerisms reminded me greatly of the two horror legends I mentioned in the last paragraph.  As the famed villain, Slaughter is every bit as iconic as a fiend can be, and I was incredibly wowed by his sinister charm.  He was slimy, he was dirty, and he was truly vile.  He was what a villain should be, and I loved it.

I know that I've found something awesome this Christmas season, and I must thank Mr. Monster for opening my idiotic eyes with this Blogathon of goodness.  I wish I had something more interesting to say about the film itself - perhaps Slaughter will soon make another appearance at FMWL - but right now I'm just kind of letting this newly found horror superstar sink in.  In the meantime, I'm sure From Beyond Depraved will meet all your Tod Slaughter needs, and I can't wait to dive deeper into the posts by Joe and company as I become a true Slaughterholic in the future. 

1 comment:

Jinx said...

Bloody wonderful! Glad Joe was able to introduce you to the man, the legend, Tod Slaughter. Once you've seen him you really just can't help falling in love with him. Hope you have a very merry Christmas, Mike, and a glorious new year.