Struggling artist Marcel De Lange (Martin Kosleck) almost manages to sell one of his works when art critic F. Holmes Harmon (Alan Napier) informs the potential buyer that the work is crap thus killing the deal. De Lange is distraught and decides to kill himself. Just as he’s about to jump off a bridge he notices a man struggling in the river below. He goes down and saves the man. The man is Rondo Hatton.
Hatton is grateful for the rescue and he stays with De Lange. De Lange starts sculpting a bust of Hatton’s face. In the meantime Hatton goes out and murders a woman by breaking the woman’s spine. Hatton happens to be the notorious killer The Creeper.
De Lange discovers this and gets The Creeper to kill off the critic Harmon. The police investigate the murder and suspect artist Steven Morrow (Robert Lowery) who had previously argued with Harmon over a bad review. Morrow’s girlfriend reporter Joan Medford (Virginia Grey) creates a fake alibi for Morrow. The cops suspect the alibi is fake so they get another critic to write a scathing review hoping that Morrow will try to kill the critic. Meanwhilte nosy reporter Medford starts investigating De Lange unaware that the Creeper is watching.
Universal Studios wanted to create a trilogy of films featuring the Creeper. Rondo Hatton had acromegaly which gave him a ghastly deformed look. Universal wanted to exploit this. This was the first film and the second was made, The Brute Man, but Hatton died from the disease before the movie was released. Universal sold The Brute Man to an independent studio after Hatton’s death because they didn’t want to look like they were exploiting Hatton, which they were. Hatton inspired a villain in The Rocketeer and more recently a comic book named after his character.