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Rondo and Bob

USA 2020
produced by
Joe O'Connell for Nickel Pickle Films
directed by Joe O'Connell
starring Ryan Williams, Kelsey Pribilski, Joseph Middleton, Adam Littman, Red Wassenich, Kyle Hanson, Gary Kent, Larissa Dali, Margaret Hoard, Dixie Sefcak Rhodes, Scott Dean, Lee Smith, Madelyn Morton, Sonny Carl Davis, Kiersten Dolan, Amanda Dolan, Josiah Swanson, Payton Swanson, Landon Swanson, Daylyn Swanson, Eli Laurence, Ron Braley, Carolina Naranjo, Kerstin Washburn, Sam Peirce, Caleb Stratton, Charles Rosenbusch, Eric Rhoades, Jacob Peirce, Glenn Schiller, interviewees: John Kelso, Dee Wallace, Alison Macor, Louis Black, Michael Finnell, Peter Szilagyi, Fred Olen Ray, Marcos E. González, Michael Peal, Deborah Pastor, Sidney Brammer, William Vail, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger, John Dugan, Andy Lalino, Ed Guinn, Chris Bonno, Terry Evans, Craig Muckler, Daniel Pearl, Del Howison, Stuart Gordon, David Gregory, Peter Locke, Joe Bob Briggs (= John Bloom), Paul Driscoll, and in archive footage: Robert A. Burns, Rondo Hatton
written by Joe O'Connell, based on the lives of Robert A. Burns, Rondo Hatton, music by Rob Larson, Faris Nourallah, Jacob Peirce, special makeup effects by Nickel Pickle Films

documentary

review by
Mike Haberfelner

In the 1940s, Rondo Hatton was on the rise as a star in horror movies, owed mainly to his face distorted by acromegaly, a result most possibly of a poison gas attack during his deployment in France in World War I. The first film that fully exploited his natural creepy looks was the Sherlock Holmes movie Pearl of Death, soon to be followed by The Spider Woman Strikes Back, House of Horrors and The Brute Man, among others. He died in 1946 of a heart attack, aged 51, a direct result of his acromegaly.

Robert A. Burns was only born lm 1944, and it's safe to say the two men have never met. Robert grew up to become an art director on horror classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, The Howling and Re-Animator, as well as fun obscurities like Tourist Trap and Microwave Massacre. And he even took a lead role in the 1985 movie Confessions of a Serial Killer. Now other than the fact that the two men are probably under-appreciated heroes of the horror genre, they have little in common, Robert A. Burns looked as "normal" as Rondo Hatton looked creepy, and while Burns had a somewhat bizarre and macabre imagination that often creeped out others, Hatton according to all accounts was the most likeable person off-screen. Burns though was the authority on Rondo Hatton, having researched the man's life and career extensively in his early years, up to the point where he tracked down and became friends with Hatton's widow. And through this fascination, Hatton and Burns' life stories, even if separated by decades, are told as parallel timelines, up to their respective tragic deaths ...

 

Now this is quite a fascinating documentary, first and foremost of course for horror fans, but its approach makes it also very engaging to a larger audience, as the film doesn't purely rely on talking head testimonies, but also on a plethora of film clips from classic and not so classic movies, plus extended re-enactments of key scenes of both men's lives, with Robert A. Burns played by Ryan Williams, Rondo Hatton by Joseph Middleton, and Hatton's wife/widow Mae, the link between the two men, by Kelsey Pribilski. And even if it can be argued the film may have taken some artistic licence with some of the scenes, it's only to further the story, not distort the facts. And the result is a highly entertaining documentary that really ticks all the right boxes.

 

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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
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out now on DVD