• Joe O'Connell

'Rondo and Bob': Two faces of fear


Robert A. Burns at the house where he filmed Mongrel.

(See more about the documentary at rondoandbob.com.)


Robert A. "Bob" Burns is a significant name in horror film art direction for his work in the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Re-Animator, The Howling. His props also appear in Poltergeist. From a young age he showed signs of being a genius and could create complex designs all in his head, draw detailed cartoons and create outrageous puns. In high school and college he studied drama, which he latter utilized in films including Confessions of a Serial Killer.

While attending the University of Texas he edited the Texas Ranger humor magazine and discovered Rondo Hatton, a former Tampa, Florida, sports reporter, who contracted acromegaly, a condition that caused his face, hands and feet to grow out of proportion to the rest of his body. It caused the former athlete and All-American kid to close himself off from the outside world until he met his second wife Mae. Together they went to Hollywood where Hatton became the Creeper in a series of films starting with the Sherlock Holmes story The Pearl of Death. He died of a heart attack brought on by his medical condition.

The documentary weaves together the stories of Burns and Hatton and delves into their horror filmographies and personal life stories. The Creeper becomes a metaphor for Burns' lifelong belief in his inner ugliness, a lack that left him unable to feel true love.

The film mixes interviews with archival film footage and rare video of Burns and the people he tried desperately to love. Along the way it examines vital touchstone films of the horror genre and tells the true stories of two of its important players.

To bring the characters of Rondo and Bob fully to life, scenes from Burns' and Hatton's lives will be recreated using actors.

The filmmakers have found rare footage of Burns and are on the search for the various pieces he created for Chainsaw. Their hunt will be part of the film itself.

Director/producer Joe O'Connell's first doc Love and Other Stunts about B-movie stuntman Gary Kent, premiered in 2018. O'Connell previously was a film industry columnist for the Dallas Morning News, Austin Chronicle and Austin American-Statesman and has contributed to Variety and Texas Monthly. He is the author of the award-winning novel-in-stories Evacuation Plan.

Rondo Hatton

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