The Crimes of Stephen Hawke

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The Crimes of Stephen Hawke
Written byJack Celestin
Frederick Hayward
H. F. Maltby
Tod Slaughter
Paul White
Starring Tod Slaughter
Marjorie Taylor
D. J. Williams
Eric Portman
Graham Soutten
Cinematography Ronald Neame
Edited byJohn Seabourne Sr.
Music by Colin Wark [ citation needed ] (uncredited)
Distributed by MGM
Release date
May 1936
Running time
CountryUnited Kingdom
Language English

The Crimes of Stephen Hawke is a 1936 British historical melodrama film directed by George King and starring Tod Slaughter as the nefarious Stephen Hawke - who masquerades as the 'Spine-Breaker'. It also features Marjorie Taylor, D. J. Williams and Eric Portman. It was made at Shepperton Studios, with sets designed by Philip Bawcombe.

This is the third of Tod Slaughter's film outings, billed as a 'new-old melodrama'. In the introduction Slaughter appears in person, in a BBC studio, where he describes with relish his murderous activities in his two previous films: Maria Marten or Murder in the Red Barn (1935) and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936).

In the film Slaughter plays a seemingly kindly money-lender who dotes on his daughter Julia. He has however a double life as the notorious 'Spine-Breaker', Victorian England's most maniacal serial killer. His nefarious activities are eventually detected by his daughter's suitor Matthew Trimble, the son of one of his victims, who after pursuing and failing to catch him somewhat charitably opines to his daughter:

'Julia, Julia, my darling, listen to me. I know that he's the notorious 'Spine-Breaker' and he ought to be dead a hundred times but I also know that his death cannot bring my father back to life. But alive or dead it cannot alter my love for you.'

In the end Slaughter comes out of hiding to kill another unwelcome suitor of his daughter, before falling to his death from the roof of his house in a dramatic final exit.


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